In 1864, three women decorated soldiers’ graves in a cemetery in Boalsburg. What started as a simple act grew into a three-day celebration and tribute to lives lost in service to their country.
Among the women credited with beginning Memorial Day was Elizabeth Myers. On Monday, four generations of her descendants gathered in the same cemetery to remember her legacy.
Myers’ great-great-granddaughters Vicky Stoner, of New Jersey, Judy Lonberger Hoffman, of Oklahoma, and Linda Lonberger Whitehead, of Arizona, along with Hoffman’s daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter, had a busy day planned.
It included attendance at the maypole dance, a trip to the Boalsburg Heritage Museum and the traditional walk to the cemetery for the service.
The holiday weekend has been the first time the family’s all been back to the area in a while.
It’s “very emotional for me” to be back in Boalsburg, Whitehead said.
Over the weekend, sisters Whitehead and Hoffman had visited family on their mother’s side in Tyrone while cousin Stoner drove around State College, where she grew up, noticing how things had changed.
The family had a great time at the Civil War Era Ball at Boal Mansion, Hoffman said, where a dressed up Ava, 3, participated in a Virginia reel, a folk dance that dates back to the 17th century.
They also visited the Pennsylvania Military Museum, where Stoner’s mother’s Army nurse uniform is in storage, Stoner said.
And their ancestors on the other side also go way back in Centre County — to George Washington Lonberger who had a farm on the top of Nittany Mountain, Whitehead said.
The family has a “long track record in Boalsburg,” she said.
Whitehead recalled how her dad, at age 24, was a volunteer fireman who helped put out the “major” fire at Duffy’s Tavern in 1934.
She said that the family had collectively brought back memories that some of them forgot.
Every time they come to Boalsburg, Whitehead said, they say it might be the last time.
But then they keep making liars out of themselves by coming back, she said with a laugh.