Bob and Ocie Alexander Grave site Needmore Cemetery Decoration Day 5-13-12. Photo by Karen Alexander-Stoeckel.
A few weeks ago in our weekly Seed and the Story column we featured a story from a reader named Karen Alexander-Stoeckel from Cambira, California. She wrote to answer our call for Decoration Day stories and explained her upcoming pilgrimage to Needmore, Arkansas to visit her grandparents’ graves and scatter the ashes of her recently deceased father, Virgil “Odell” Alexander.
Her father grew up in Arkansas, but, like so many others of his generation, left to find work in California. She recalled how much he cherished the Decoration Day photos that relatives sent him each year, images of the family all dressed up near the freshly decorated graves. (See photo below) Her own trip to Arkansas was to be her first Decoration Day. From her letter:
I have gathered bouquets of Lavender from my back yard and I have them drying to take with me to Needmore Cemetery to be lain in honor and respect to all those who lived before and are now rejoicing with my daddy.
I’m bringing my camera too. Like my dear grandmother of years past, I intend to share and cherish these photos with my family in California. My daddy’s legacy of home and family lives on through my nine year old granddaughter who recently stated that if given any place in the world to visit, she chose Arkansas where my Papa is buried. Read the entire letter and the backstory here.
I asked Karen if she would be willing to provide us with an update and photo from her trip. That photo can be seen above. Here is what she had to say:
I’m back at my home on the central coast of California but my heart is still on Petit Jean Mt. with my daddy. It was very healing to make this trek and already my thoughts are no longer dwelling on his frail body wasting away on that nursing home bed, but instead I will forever remember him walking in those wooded hills, enjoying the sweet scent of pine and the distant holler from a neighbor. My daddy is home.
Thanks so much to Karen for sharing her story with us! We are deeply honored to be able to share it here.
Photo from Karen Alexander-Stoeckel of her Grandma, Ocie Hance-Alexander (in blue dress) with her brothers and sisters at the gravesites of their parents, Greeny and Dora Hance. Needmore Cemetery, Arkansas.