At 10 a.m. May 4 and 11, the Royal Oak Memorial Society invites the public to help clean up veterans’ gravestones at Oakview Cemetery in preparation for Memorial Day.

At 10 a.m. May 4 and 11, the Royal Oak Memorial Society invites the public to help clean up veterans’ gravestones at Oakview Cemetery in preparation for Memorial Day.

File photo by Sarah Wojcik


Volunteers sought to clean veterans’ graves at Oakview Cemetery

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published April 16, 2019

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ROYAL OAK — The Royal Oak Memorial Society has for the past two decades led an effort to clean veterans’ graves at Oakview Cemetery during the first two weekends in May.

The cleanups will start at 10 a.m. May 4 and May 11. The group will meet inside the cemetery, just past the pond. At 10 a.m. May 25, the public is invited to place approximately 2,500 flags on veterans’ graves in time for Memorial Day May 27.

The society will supply the garbage bags; it just asks that volunteers bring their own hand tools. Society member Carol Hennessey said string trimmers work well, and brooms and rags help with cleaning graves after the removal of grass.

The project originated when Hennessey was placing flags at veterans’ graves and twisted her ankle in what she initially thought was a hole in the ground.

It turned out to be a veteran’s headstone sunk into the ground and covered in grass.

“I cleaned it off and I said, ‘Look, if I found this one, there has got to be a lot more,’” Hennessey said. “We started with, like, three or four people and, depending on the weather, we now get up to 50 people.”

She said there is a designated area for veterans in the rear of the cemetery, but there are more veterans buried throughout the property. There are also approximately 14 Canadian veterans buried in Oakview, and the Royal Oak Memorial Society provides Canadian flags for them.

“I want to say they go back to World War I,” she said. “There’s just so many different ones, and it’s really interesting when you start cleaning and see what’s on the headstone.”

She said the society encourages local students and Scout groups to participate in the event to learn more about veterans. She said the event is also ideal for churches, families, nonprofits and more.

John Wendland, a lifelong resident of Royal Oak and a member of the Royal Oak Memorial Society, said the tradition of placing flags at veterans’ graves began in 1920. The local American Legion Post 253 is named after his uncle, Frank Wendland, who was killed in action in France during World War I.

“I think it’s great that they (clean up the graves) every year,” Wendland said.

Hennessey said she and her husband enjoy driving through the cemetery and seeing all of the flags fluttering in the wind.

Oakview Cemetery is located at 1032 N. Main St., south of 12 Mile Road.

For more information, call (248) 543-8420 or email carolhenny@aol.com.

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006. 

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