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Navy Wives remember Babyland

Members of the Navy Wives Club of America gather round Tuesday evening for a short dedication ceremony for the Babyland section of Maple Leaf Cemetery. The group has tended to that portion of the cemetery for many years, longer than most members can recall.  - Kathy Reed/Whidbey News-Times
Members of the Navy Wives Club of America gather round Tuesday evening for a short dedication ceremony for the Babyland section of Maple Leaf Cemetery. The group has tended to that portion of the cemetery for many years, longer than most members can recall.
— image credit: Kathy Reed/Whidbey News-Times

Islanders will be honoring the nation’s war dead this Memorial Day weekend,  but Tuesday evening a small but determined group turned out for the Navy Wives Club of America’s annual Babyland dedication at Maple Leaf Cemetery in Oak Harbor.

It was a bittersweet remembrance ceremony, as members of NWCA Branch 150 paid respects to the children buried there and acknowledged the loss of longtime member Betty Glein, who died last year after a battle with cancer. Glein, who worked tirelessly to keep up that corner of the cemetery, is now buried there, along with the children whose graves she so ardently cared for.

“You know, some people aren’t even aware of how much she did for Babyland,” said Deborah Wheeler.

“This was Betty’s thing,” said Jein Weiman. “I think we’re all pitching in a little more — it’s becoming more of a group thing.”

The local NWCA chapter has been taking care of the portion of the cemetery at the corner of NE 16th Street and Regatta Avenue since before most of the members can recall. Over the years, the group has planted trees, tended the flower bed and helped raise money to place markers on graves without a stone.

“I think because of Betty we’re making an effort,” said new NWCA chapter president Mary Mueller.

“It connects us,” agreed Joyce Vance.

“Betty would be proud of us, because it looks really nice,” said Barbara Mann.

Group members shared many memories of Glein, laughing as they recalled her penchant for getting things organized.

“Part of me thinks she’s up there telling all the new arrivals what to do and where to go,” said Jill Ashley-Chase, who officiated the ceremony.

“It just seems funny not to have her here,” acknowledged Diana Hamilton.

While Glein’s presence was missed, those attending found comfort in the gathering.

“We’re all family. There’s a strong bond here,” said Wheeler. “And Betty would want us to celebrate her life.”

Babyland was marked by three blocks of rose granite shaped like baby’s blocks in a dedication ceremony held Memorial Day, 2008. At the time, each of the approximately 150 unmarked graves received its own headstone. The drive for the memorial was headed by Ann Abrahamse, helped by Mike Dougliss, cemetery supervisor, who spent many months searching for lost markers.

 

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