Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Long Visit from Mississippi

On August 19, 2013, The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia was host to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Long, who were visiting from Starkville, Mississippi. Mr. Long, who is in his seventies, was born and raised in Philadelphia but moved away when he was eighteen when he joined the Air Force. His mother and grandmother (the names you see on this headstone) are buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery.

Mr. Long served as an engine mechanic in the United States Air Force and spent time in Japan post-WWII.  His mother passed away when he was four months old.  He does not have any pictures of her nor does he know how she died.  Mr. Long’s father is also deceased.  Recently, Mrs. Long, Sue, began searching the internet for answers to the questions related to her husband’s family history and came across the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery website. She sent us an email and we located the grave in question, which you see in the photo above. Elizabeth Long was his mother and Ida May Reed was his grandmother.

The Longs were very appreciative for the information provided to them by the Friends and inquired about a visit to Mount Moriah. (This is one of the volunteer services we offer, along with keeping the grass and weeds cut and clearing large areas of overgrown trees and other foliage throughout the several-hundred-acre cemetery.)

Bob and Sue Long's plan was to drive to Philadelphia from Mississippi to visit the grave. Ken Smith (photo at right), Treasurer on the Board of The Friends took it upon himself to tackle the weeds in the section where Mr. Long’s relatives are buried. He and other volunteers labored many hours during the week prior to the Long’s visit to cut the high grass over the entire Section F (on the Philadelphia side of the cemetery) and clear the overgrown grass from the hillside walkway. The latter was done to allow Mr. Long clear access to climb the hill in his motorized wheelchair.

On Monday morning, August 19, the Longs completed their 1000 mile 15-hour trip by minivan to Philadelphia. They were met and directed to Mount Moriah Cemetery by Ken Smith. Several Board members were on hand to greet them, including Paulette Rhone (President), Ed Snyder (Communications and Technology Chair), and Sam Ricks (Education and history Chair). Ed Snyder brought his four-year-old daughter Olivia, who graciously carried the flowers brought by the Longs to decorate the grave.

Bob and Sue Long were extremely grateful to the Friends for making them welcome and assisting them in their journey. It was a very emotional time – along with Mr. Long’s memories, they brought a flag and a small statue of a boy labelled “Bobby.” Mr. Long told me his mother used to call him that. Ken and Ed helped to secure the statue to the headstone.

The Longs came prepared with a caulking gun and tube of builder’s cement, clippers and a can of … Play-Doh! Daughter Olivia asked if she could play with the Play-Doh. Mrs. Long told us she brought it to hold the flag in the little cup held by the “Bobby” statue. She told Olivia that she would only need enough to hold the flag in place and that she could have the rest.  She said, “I had to buy four cans and I left three home for my grandkids. You can have this one.” Olivia was thrilled!

“Bobby” wasn’t very secure on the headstone so Ken drove off to the old gatehouse to find a suitable piece of stone on which to mount the statue. He returned with a heavy piece of granite which we dug in next to the headstone. We then glued “Bobby” on to the new stone. I asked Mr. Long why the flag. He told me he was a veteran, and had been an engine mechanic in the United States Air Force. I told him my great uncle was also in the Air Force, but retired with far less marketable skills - great uncle Raymond had been a tail-gunner. Mr. Long laughed.

After returning to Mississippi, the Longs had the following to say about the Friends and their visit. This from Sue Vaughan Long via Facebook:
"It is such a great thing that all of you good people are doing for this cemetery. And thanks again for helping us decorate the grave and to Ken for showing us how to get to the cemetery and back to the Hotel we were staying at. May God bless each and every one of the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery.
Long Friends of Mount Moriah are just wonderful people. You have to have a big heart to undertake what you are doing for the Cemetery. As I have said before several times, we cannot thank you enough for what you have done for us. Bob says for him it was a dream come true after 76 years to finally go to his Mother's final resting place."

The experience was one that we will all remember for a long time. It is yet another example of the mission of The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery - “honoring the memory of those interred in her folds through restoration, historic research, education and community engagement.” 

If you would like to volunteer your time to help the Friends in any capacity - please contact us via our website or our Facebook Group Page:

The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. website 
The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. on Facebook