Wreaths Across America

Freemasons from Harmony Lodge No. 8 F&AM in Andover laid wreaths on the graves of past members Thomas Anderson and his son, Thomas Oakley Anderson, during the Wreaths Across America ceremony held at the Old Newton Burial Ground on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. (Photo by Mandy Coriston).

By Mandy Coriston
Newton - Remember, honor, teach. These are the principles of the national Wreaths Across America campaign, and the three key words spoken at 1,400 Wreath Across America ceremonies across the nation on Saturday, Dec. 15, as wreaths were laid on the graves of veterans to honor their lives. The red ribbons were bright against the gray skies as 42 balsam circlets were carefully laid at the Old Newton Burial Ground in a ceremony sponsored and led by the Sussex County Historical Society.
The event, the first such ceremoney to be formally held at the historic cemetery, brought the public together with members of Harmony Lodge No. 8 F&AM, American Legion Post 86, and representatives of the Historical Society, as well as other civic groups. Guests were greeted with patriotic songs by the Hontz Family brass ensemble.
Promptly at noon, the Post 86 honor guard presented the colors for the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner and the Pledge of Allegiance. Following an invocation from George Stypolkowski of the Harmony Lodge, event chair and Sussex County Historical Society trustee Wendy Wyman’s voice rang clear as she called the names of the veterans and patriots to be honored.
“It is said that a person dies twice,” she said, in a quote which read at every Wreaths Across America ceremony worldwide. “First, when we stop breathing, and again, when our name is said for the last time. I encourage you all, as you lay the wreaths, to say aloud once more, the name of the person you are honoring.”
Bagpipes played and an air of solemnness permeated the crowd as they dispersed to place the wreaths on the veterans’ graves. The freemasons from Harmony Lodge, which was founded in 1788, laid greenery on the final resting places of the Lodge’s first Master, Thomas Anderson, who served in the American Revolution, as well as that of his son Thomas Oakley Anderson, a veteran of the Barbary Wars. They also honored fellow mason John Holmes, a Continental Army captain.
In remarks following the wreath laying, Stypolkowski said the Lodge members were grateful for the opportunity to honor their past members. James Naisby, the past president of the Col. John Rosenkrans Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution also spoke.
“We have a mission,” Naisby said, “And that is to teach our children the value of freedom. That is why we do this.”
U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer, who represents New Jersey's Fifth District, has been integral in helping Wyman to find funding for new headstones for some of the veterans entombed at the burial, and while he could not attend in person, he sent a liaison with a message about the importance of remembrance. “We need to lay these wreaths,” Patrick Sheehan read from a statement prepared by the congressman, “to honor those who fought for this country’s existence and for the freedoms we have today.”
The ceremony concluded with full military honors, beginning with a benediction from Post 86 Chaplain Jack Tripp. Amazing Grace poured mournfully from the bagpipes, and a gun salute shattered the still air. The familiar, haunting tones of “Taps” echoed off the gravestones to mark the close of the event.
American Legion Post 86 Past Commander Harry Kaplan was part of the honor guard and placed wreaths.
“This was a beautiful ceremony...I’m so honored to be able to honor the veterans here," he said.
Sussex County Historian Wayne McCabe was hopeful that all who participated in the ceremony and the wreath-laying took away a lasting memory.
“We have a responsibility not only to these 42, but to all who gave their lives for our freedom," McCabe said. "It’s incredibly important to keep them in mind- here, all over the state and the country, and overseas, as well.”
Veterans Honored at the Old Newton Burial Ground on Saturday, December 15, 2018:
Thomas Anderson John Couse Matthew Davis
John Drake Samuel Harden Jacob Hendershot
John Holmes Henry Johnson Richard Lloyd
Theodorus Polhemus *Letitia Anderson William Thornton Anderson
Grant Fitch John Potter Thomas Oakley Anderson
John Cummins Fox James Inglis John Conover Lane
Vancleve Moore Benjamin Booth Thomas Coxe Ryerson
Evi Dayton Anderson Thomas Anderson Samuel Brooks
Newman Chambers Lorenzo Cummins Isaac J. Durling
Gersham W. Gillam George Van Tile Griggs Levi DeWitt Miller
Robert Armstrong Haggerty George T. Hendershot William A. Moshier
John S. Hendershot Peter M. Hendershot William Flack Robbins
James Polk Knox John Polk Knox Henry J. Rudd
Henry Ogden Ryerson Ira Beach Stewart Hampton S. Wilson
*Female ‘Patriot’- Ladies of Trenton