Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day with a Civil War Veteran

For Memorial Day 2012 we decided to do something different - go quest for a veteran ancestor. Late last Fall I had played around with stalking dead ancestors with clicks of a computer mouse but now it was time to get real.

Patti’s paternal great-great grandfather, while unknown in her family oral history, still seemed from my research our most promising quest.

George R Decker (1833 – 1915) fought in the US Civil war with the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry. A lifelong Pennsylvania farmer he fought through and survived three years of Calvary engagements in most of the battles of the Eastern campaign of the Civil War including Gettysburg.

I knew from his Civil War Veteran’s records that he was supposed to be buried in New Freedom Cemetery and after driving around the cemetery and then pushing and pulling Patti’s wheelchair through the tombstones and over many deceased, eureka! we found him .. and his wife, too.
We had brought along a picnic basket and bottles of ice water. ‘Real feel’ temps of 94˚F (34.4˚C) were not Multiple Sclerosis friendly but by frequently applying a frozen bottle of ice water to the back of Patti’s neck, it worked like her personal air conditioning … and our air conditioned wheelchair van was nearby if needed.

To our pleasant surprise and as if conjured up by some ‘Americana’ movie set to complete our picnic, a 'small town America' Memorial Day program was being set up in the cemetery. People soon began to walk by us carrying folding chairs and coolers, scouts had flags and flowers. A small local brass band began to play military songs through the years.  
Still hangin’ out with George and Lydia, soon we found ourselves laughing and singing along to snippets from songs such as “It’s a Grand Old Flag”.

As the band finished their tribute to the Civil War including both Battle Hymn of the Republic and Dixie it was a perfect time for us to say goodbye.

What more can you say to a guy who had actually been at Appomattox Courthouse when the Civil War ended … except thank you.

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick Leer 


  1. Wow, Patrick, how neat to spend the day like this! Humbling to be in the presence (so to speak) of someone who had served the country so many years ago!! Seemed like a nice touch too with the music and other celebrating going on!

    except for the heat, it did seem like a great Memorial Day!


  2. This is what I used to do too. Several vets of WWI and II and civil war, in my family.

  3. Oops, I refuse to be unknown...though...meant for your post perhaps!

  4. That's a beautiful way to spend this holiday! All of my ancestors came from the other side of the pond, but my lineage is well-documented.

  5. Interestingly I've since learned that Memorial Day graveyard picnics at veterans graves were once quite the norm for Memorial Day before we became a nation that cannot leave our video games, TV's, pools, parades, etc. Patti and I were the only living picnickers then again it was an OLD graveyard in an OLD farming community and the Memorial Day 'concert' in the cemetery kind of counted 'like' a picnic. :)


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