York ME Cemetery installs final resting place for US flags

The vault will contain about 50 years of ashes from American flags that adorned veteran tombstones.


YORK, Maine – Each year around Memorial Day, approximately 1,000 flags are placed on the graves of veterans in First Parish Cemetery. The flags stay all summer, fluttering in the wind and fading in the sun.

Then, shortly after Veterans Day each year, the flags are again collected and sent for proper retirement and cremation, according to Cemetery Superintendent Todd Fredrick.

But now the ashes from American flags that adorned headstones in First Parish Cemetery have a final resting place nearby.

To better honor the American flags posted on the veterans ‘graves at First Parish Cemetery, Lucas and Eaton Funeral Home, the York Committee of Veterans’ Affairs and the cemetery came together to create a new home.

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A two-and-a-half-foot hole was dug in the cemetery grounds on September 15 to create a concrete vault that would provide space to fill about half a century of ashes.

“It worried me what the life cycle of flags was when they were retired … when these flags are retired, they should be properly retired. I’m glad to be just a small part of it, ”said Frederick.

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The US Flag Act states that if a flag “is in a state where it is no longer an appropriate emblem, it should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by incineration.”

When the flags fall from the tombstones in November, the cemetery attendant will flatten the flags and then transport them to the funeral home, who will prepare them in a cremation box. This cardboard box with a wooden floor is then taken to a crematorium, which returns the ashes in an urn to the cemetery, in order to then pour them into the vault.

The vault is located in the back of the cemetery and is covered by a polymer cover that is fastened with fasteners. Once the polymer cover is removed, Frederick opens a hatch that is about 16 inches wide.

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More of these vaults will likely be placed in the same area of ​​the cemetery decades in the future, but that will be the decision of the next superintendent, Frederick said.

The safe was $ 400 and was paid for and installed by the cemetery, he said.

The Veterans Affairs Committee will meet on Tuesday, September 28th and decide on which important day the flags will be ceremonially burned: either Veterans Day on November 11th or Flag Day on June 14th.

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Another plaque is coming that will tell the story of the vault, said Frederick. The Veterans Affairs Committee intends to have York schools compete in a joint competition to engage students and help with formulation.

“I think it shows that the veterans who live in our town certainly have respect and honor, and it’s wonderful to see,” said Frederick.

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