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By the Way: Holiday gifts for American heroes


Live evergreen wreaths, their red bows fluttering in the old hilltop cemetery, mark the veterans’ graves at the Upper Tinicum Cemetery in Upper Black Eddy during this holiday season.

“Each wreath is our personal gift to an American hero,” said Gary Williams, who spearheaded the local project for Wreaths Across America.

The cemetery lies next to the Upper Tinicum Lutheran Church high on a hill not far from the Delaware River. It is an appropriately peaceful resting place for generations of warriors who left their families behind and marched off to unknown battlefields. Buried in the cemetery are 346 veterans, a surprising number for such a small community.

The veterans whose graves now bear wreaths “served in every war in which America has been involved, beginning with the War of 1812 right up to Afghanistan,” said Williams, who is president of the association that administers the burial ground.

He noted that no Revolutionary War veterans were buried at Upper Tinicum because neither the church nor cemetery were established until the early 1800s. The present red brick church was rebuilt in 1893.

Williams and Donna Hobson, a cemetery association member, have made sure those who fought for this country were remembered this holiday season. Both live in Nockamixon Township. Williams, an Air Force veteran, is the son of a veteran, the late Richard H. Williams who served in the Army during World War II. Both his father and mother, the late Mildred Williams, are buried in the cemetery. So are other relatives.

Williams and Hobson were among the more than 2 million volunteers for the national Wreaths Across America to place wreaths at thousands of grave sites and monuments on Dec. 16.

Accompanied by members of Palisades District Memorial Post 399, American Legion, which presented the colors in the church, Williams offered a brief explanation of the program.

“Our mission is to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach the next generation the value of freedom,” he said.

He pointed specifically to the extra-large wreaths that lined the altar steps signifying the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, Space Force, Merchant Marines and Prisoners of War.

“The live evergreen wreaths are a symbol of longevity and endurance,” he said.

He noted each of the wreaths was made of 10 sections, or bouquets, each of which represented individual character traits such as humility and selflessness.

Outside in the cemetery, family members of the veterans were given a special time to position their wreaths. Volunteers then distributed the remaining wreaths to the proper graves. Taps concluded the program.

Later in the day, volunteers placed wreaths at several small Upper Bucks cemeteries where veterans are buried.

Four Revolutionary War veterans are among the eight people interred at tiny hilltop Gallows Hill Cemetery. One of them is Major Thomas Long. The names of the other three are unknown. Legend has it that at least one of the civilian unknowns is a Native American. The earliest burial there was recorded in 1757 and jagged rocks are the only markers on their graves.

Volunteers also placed wreaths on veterans graves at the Clay Ridge Cemetery in Tinicum Township, and at a private family cemetery.

Kathryn Finegan Clark is a freelance writer who lives in Durham Township. She can be reached at

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