TYRINGHAM — Sunday's Memorial Day ceremony held amid the headstones of the Tyringham Cemetery was quintessential small-town America.
Cooled by cloud cover and a refreshing breeze, the nearly 80 people gathered pledged allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, listened attentively to patriotic speeches and quietly acknowledged the honor roll read of all the town's war veterans from the American Revolution to the present.
"It's a nice tribute to all current and long-gone soldiers and those in the Navy," said Chris Curtin, also celebrating her birthday on Sunday and today her 50th wedding anniversary to husband Carl.
The solemn occasion drew many descendants, locally and from afar, of those laid in Tyringham. Ed Stanard from Westfield and member of Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War took great pride being the guest speaker, his remarks included reading Union General John A. Logan's declaration issued May 5, 1868 that would lead to the establishment of May 30 as Memorial Day.
"This means a lot to me as my great-great grandfather [a Union solider] is buried here," he said. "This is such a beautiful spot for a cemetery — spectacular."
Lying behind Tyringham Union Church, the two-acre graveyard contains more than 800 headstones — some dating back to the late 1770s — marking nearly 1,300 plots.
Fronting the cemetery is the newly restored 370-foot wrought-iron fence, a bow-and-dart design forged by the Buckeye Company, erected in 1892, along with a four-rail iron barrier on the remaining three sides that surrounds the hallowed site.
For the fence to last another century, it needed substantial renovations costing up to $75,000, according to town officials.
The Tyringham Historic Commission financed the two-year-old project through mostly private donations, collaborating with the town's Cemetery Commission to complete the restoration. Sheffield Architect John James helped oversee the work done by Aegis Restauro of Belle Mead, N.J.
"[The fence] is restored in a way that will last for generations," said commission member Cornelia "Nini" Gilder. "It's part of the landscape and tells us something about Tyringham in the 1890s."
Once commonplace, the 19th century-style fence is also unusual now, as its kind disappeared from the New England landscape — all the more reason to preserve it, commission members have said.
Among the most famous of Tyringham's departed is Sidney Howard, Broadway playwright and Oscar-winning screenwriter for the film, "Gone With the Wind." Howard died Aug. 23, 1939, following a tractor accident while working his Tyringham farm.
The restoration and Memorial Day tribute are also reminders to the town's younger and future generations the importance of preserving the memory of their forefathers and foremothers.
Tyringham's Garrett Roche, 13, honored the town's veterans by reading the "Gettysburg Address." The Boy Scout with Troop 3 in Lee felt President Abraham Lincoln's words summing up his view of the Civil War are fitting for 21st-century remembrances.
"[The speech] does seem appropriate," he said. "'But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground' has deep meaning today."
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233