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On the mark: Cemeteries bond community

For many small-town residents, cemeteries host gatherings and remembrances that bring us together. On the western edge of Carlton County, on South Finn Road, the Lakeside Cemetery serves this purpose. It is well-managed by a team of elders, who keep track of plots and ensure that burials are properly situated and that headstones accurately record their inhabitants.

We recently buried the ashes of my husband Rod's older brother Jim Walli (brother Jack's identical twin). Jim had served in Vietnam and had gone on to a distinguished career in the Air Force as a communications specialist and teacher.

It was a lovely, warm afternoon. About 80 people showed up for the interment. Honoring Jim's service, the McGregor Honor Guard started the service with taps and some well-spoken thoughts about veterans. Jim's older son, Paul, here from Mississippi, poured his father's ashes into the gravesite. Afterward we all retired to the Wright bar, including the McGregor VFW members and honor guard, for a beer or two. Then to the Wright Bethlehem Church, where the women had prepared a lovely meal.

By now, I've been to multiple local interments and have learned how community-reinforcing they can be. My parents are buried in a beautiful cemetery by Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. About two dozen of our neighbors and relatives showed up for a memorial service we held there. And although my younger brother and I often visit the gravesite, we rarely meet the neighbors, parishioners and friends that were once so much a part of our family's years in the city.

Burying a loved one in a local cemetery is often a community experience with long-lasting consequences. A few years ago, the Wright area community hosted a gathering of 100 relatives whose ancestors are buried here. People came from the Pacific Northwest, Guam, Canada and elsewhere to honor their ancestors and share stories of their families' trajectories.

And a literary note: Margaret Olson Webster, who grew up down the road and who is also buried in the Lakeside Cemetery, wrote a wonderful book, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Cemetery," illustrated with paintings and photos. At her funeral, her grown children and grandchildren handed out copies of the book, one for everyone joining the very crowded service.