Tradition, respect and honorable work at Mountain View
If you want to know the history of a particular neighborhood, you should spend time with folks who "live' there.
In the case of Mountain View Cemetery, two of those folks would be Kenneth Faulknier and Frank Gravely.
Through the spring and summer, these stewards practically live at the cemetery.
"We're thinking about getting our mail up here," Faulknier laughed.
But all who visit Mountain View benefit from the results of their hard work and dedication.
Gravely retired from his work there in 2000, but has volunteered his time since then.
"Frank is right here.ﾠ When the town needs a grave dug - who do they call?" asked Faulknier.ﾠ "This guy right here."
"He lays out the graves and 99 times out of a hundred, he's right."
That talent comes from years of experience.
It is Faulknier's and Gravely's experience at Mountain View that continues the traditions and work necessary to make it the picturesque, peaceful place that it is.
As Memorial Day approached, flags were raised to honor the branches of this country's military.
An honor befitting the nearly 550 veterans who have been laid to rest there.
Veterans that include three from the Civil War, one of them a Confederate soldier, a first Lieutenant in the 11th Virginia Cavalry.
The flags are hoisted in accordance with tradition.
"As we have always done, we raise the flags according to history." Faulknier said.
The first to be raised on its white pole is the Army flag, as the Army was this country's first branch of the military.ﾠ Followed by the Navy, Air Corps, Marines, Coast Guard, then the Black Flag for those who remain listed as MIA.
It is in the shadow of those flags that the Pocahontas County Veterans Honor Corps conducts its Memorial Day service.
As is the custom here, the cemetery was awash in color on Memorial Day weekend, flowers intermingled with American flags on the graves of its veterans.
It is Gravely who places flags on graves where there are no stones, because he knows this sacred ground so well.
He has researched the records, finding those unmarked graves, and finding, as well, that an unnumberedﾠ Moose Lodge owned 12 grave plots that had never been used.
When Dotty Kellison was mayor, she contacted the international headquarters of the Moose and they, in turn, donated those lots back to the town.
The Odd Fellows own a plot at Mountain View, but only three of those gravesites have been used.
"Back in the 20s, you could buy a full lot of 12 plots for $25."
Faulknier said.ﾠ "The cheapest gravesite ever sold was for $5."
Today, the cost is about $350 per plot.
"It is the richest piece of property in town," said Faulknier.
Rich in history, to be sure.
"This is a perpetualﾠ cemetery," Faulknier said. "When you buy a lot, you buy care for that grave forever."
Faulknier has been a part of that "perpetual care" since he was in high school.
His father, Guy Faulknier, worked for the town of Marlinton in different capacities for 43 years. Not the least of which was maintenance of Mountain View Cemetery.
"In his ﾑreign' as mayor, all the graves were dug by hand," Faulknier remembered.
The money was good for a high school boy, but the work was hard.
"We dug three graves by hand," said Gravely. "that was more than enough."
Grave digging is hard work, but, so too, is grass mowing and edging of the stones to keep this cemetery in pristine condition.
Faulknier vividly remembers trimming around the headstones with a pair of sheep shears.
"Louie Colson mowed with a 36 inch wide lawn mower," Gravely said. "It had grips to twist to make it go left or right."
And though they shared a name, Gravely said that the Gravely lawnmower that followed was "a real man-killer."
"I drove the first John Deere they ever had," Gravely said proudly.
Good equipment is of the utmost importance as this cemetery encompasses eight acres of land.
"Back when they laid this cemetery off in the 20s, people thought it was sacrilegious to step on graves and gravestones," said Faulknier.
As a result, Mountain View is full of walkways.
Some walkways have been sold off as gravesites, a sale that was authorized years ago under then Mayor Ed Rexrode.
A gravesite in one of those walkways brings comfort to Gravely.
Gravely was a good friend of Lillian O. Lovelace, 1910-1995.
"She was a nice lady.ﾠ I wasn't going to bury her against her will," said Gravely.
Lovelace's husband, Scott, had passed away in 1970.ﾠ Their daughter, Rella Jane, 1942-1944, is buried to his left.
Lovelace wanted to be buried by her daughter.
The family traded a plot to the town in exchange for a plot in the walkway so Lovelace's final wish could be granted.
Lovelace's grave somewhat conforms to yet another time-honored tradition.
"You are buried as you are married," said Faulknier.
Women are buried to the left of their husbands.
And all graves face east.
"When Christ returns.ﾠ He will come from the east," Faulknier explained.
Before interment, comes the funeral.
Anyone raised in Marlinton well remembers one guaranteed attendee of every service - Warren Arbogast.
If "Warnie," as he was affectionately called, could not walk to the funeral, he would hire a taxi, usually driven by Gravely.
Prior to his time at Mountain View, Gravely was a taxi driver for Skip Dunbrack, Carl Underwood and Mason Sullivan.
Gravely knows the history of the cemetery and its people.
With so many solar lights on and near tombstones, "it looks like a town up here at night," he said.
And as in a town, Mountain View holds its history, stories and favorite residents.
Faulknier's favorite is the epitaph of Grace Allen Buchanan, August 30, 1903 - August 1, 1952: "No pain , no grief, no anxious fear, can touch our loved one resting here."
A statue of the Blessed Mother or Virgin Mary, near the entrance of the cemetery marks the graves of Harry Hopkins, 1888-1950, and his wife, Stella Lousie Hopkins, 1902 - 1965.
These folks ran "Hoppie's," a local watering hole on Beard Heights, which later became the Sportsman, then a Sears store and is now the Sparrow's Nest.ﾠ They also ran the establishment, later known as Miss Kitty's, near the site of the present Rite Aid.
The statue is always pearly white, thanks to Faulknier, who "cleans her up" with bleach and "a lot of water" every year or so.
With Gravely, respect and humor go together.
As he goes from plot to plot, he tells the stories of those whose graves he has cared for and with whom he has shared this hilltop for so many years.
There is a stop at the grave of Dorthea L. McLaughlin, March 23, 1925 - July 11, 1995;ﾠ Captain, U. S. Air Force, Korea; the highest ranking female soldier in Mountain View.
A time for reflection on the sad story on the stone marking the graves of the four Green children who "Perished in a fire which destroyed their home, December 10, 1948:" Dannie H., born 1934; Bobby, Jr., born 1937; Lulu Bell, born 1940; and Roy A., born 1942.
At Private Earl A. Gilmore's grave, June 9, 1892 - September 30, 1918, Gravely tells that Gilmore died of influenza.
His epitaph reads, "They who knew him best will bless his name and keep his memory dear while life shall last."
Moving along, "Did you know that George Washington, Paul Revere and John Wayne are buried here?" Gravely asks.
Resting against a headstone, Gravely smiles as he places his leg in such a way as to block out the last name of the deceased.
But he respectfully acknowledges the true identities of those who lie there: George Washington Ryder, Paul Revere Overholt and John Wayne McCarty.
Gravely and Faulknier are at home here. They know their "neighbors" and their histories, and they have compassion for those who grieve and those who visit regularly.
It is their calling to tend to this "neighborhood."
A calling that is heartfelt and a job that is so very, very well done.