0
Votes

An Anniversary of Tragedy, Future Hope

Fire Prevention Week memorial service honors the fallen.

This year's annual memorial service at Ivy Hill Cemetery honoring firefighters who have been killed in the line of duty and those retired who have died in the past year, to be held Friday, Oct. 13, will take on a special significance. It coincides with the 150th Anniversary of Ivy Hill Cemetery Company in Alexandria.

That hallmark will be celebrated with an 8:30 a.m. breakfast at the Belle Haven Country Club during which the formation of The Ivy Hill Cemetery Historic Preservation Society will be unveiled. Following the sesquicentennial event the Alexandria Fire Department and EMS will hold its memorial service and wreath-laying ceremony in the Circle of Honor at the cemetery, 2823 King St., at 11 a.m.

"It seemed only fitting to embark on this new part of Ivy Hill's journey in the same year we celebrate the cemetery's honored 150-year past. After all, you don't have a sesquicentennial every day," said Thomas C. Bowling, III, CCE, chairman, president, CEO, and general manager, Ivy Hill Cemetery.

With the perspective that the cemetery's mission goes on in perpetuity, it became obvious that an adjunct organization needed to be formed to ensure that Ivy Hill can continue to fulfill its historic role as a keeper of Alexandria heritage, according to Bowling.

The stated purposes of the new nonprofit Society include: the restoration and preservation of monuments, memorials and other structures at the cemetery; protection, conservation and cultivation of trees, flora and fauna throughout the grounds; promotion and development of educational and cultural programs; plus other charitable and educational activities.

To aid in accomplishing these goals, the Society has received a dollar-for-dollar matching grant for cash-in-hand raised before Dec. 31, up to $100,000, Bowling announced. He also emphasized the creation of this Society was not a one man effort.

"Getting people to step up and be responsible to create something from the ground up is very difficult. It is asking quite a lot and you don't go to strangers with such a request," he said.

<b>THOSE WHO FORMED</b> what he calls his "dream team" and serve as the Society's founding directors and officers are Steven E. Wooddell, Alexandria, president; Laurie Blackburn, CFP, Alexandria, treasurer; Lawrence O'Reilly, Arlington, secretary; Gant Redmon, Esq., Alexandria, director; and Arthur H. Bryant,Jr., Orange, VA, director. The first volunteer to step forward to aid in the Society's formation was Lucy Burke Goddin, according to Bowling.

In addition to welcoming remarks by Bowling, the breakfast will be emceed by Redmon of Redmon, Peyton & Braswell, L.L.P. Speaking on the subject, "History is Alive in Alexandria Cemeteries," will be James Mackay, acting director, Office of Historic Alexandria. Goddin will present "A Personal Perspective on Ivy Hill."

<b>ALSO MARKING</b> its 150th Anniversary this Friday is the placement of the stone obelisk immediately inside the cemetery's main entrance and the centerpiece of the Circle of Honor. A gift from the citizens of Alexandria, it stands as a memorial to the seven firefighters who lost their lives in 1855 in the City's worst fire tragedy.

When the cemetery was opened and dedicated one year later so too was the monument. Each year on the Friday of National Fire Prevention Week a solemn ceremony is held to honor the first responders who have died by placing a rose in a silver horn for each of the fallen.

National Fire Prevention Week occurs each year during the week that contains Oct. 9, the date of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. That massive blaze claimed the lives of 300 people, burned more than 2,000 acres, destroyed 17,000 structures, and left 100,000 homeless in a 27-hour rampage.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake which unleashed a fire storm across that city on April 18, leaving the Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill as the only structure throughout the entire City core relatively in tact. The actual death toll from that event has never been specifically verified.

President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 4-10, 1925. When he did so he noted that some 15,000 lives had been lost to fire in the previous year.

"This waste results from the conditions which justify a sense of shame and horror; for the greater part of it could and ought to be prevented. It is highly desirable that every effort be made to reform the conditions which have made possible so vast a destruction of the national wealth," Coolidge said.

"We hope this historical memorial [obelisk] to the fallen firefighters here in Ivy Hill serves as a reminder of the importance of fire prevention. Raising awareness of fire prevention practices reduces the possibility of fire-related deaths of both civilians and firefighters," Bowling said.

Friday's ceremony at the cemetery is open to the public. It will be followed by the customary luncheon at First Baptist Church of Alexandria, 2932 King St.