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Babyland cemetery ready to go

"Three blocks of rose granite - shaped like baby's blocks - were put in place at Maple Leaf Cemetery Wednesday in memory of all the babies buried there - especially the infants who lie in unmarked graves.And within a month, each of 150 unmarked graves will have its own small granite headstone, engraved with the family name. Eight graves that could not be identified by a family name will not be left out. The words on those headstones will say Beloved Baby. It's a dream come true, cemetery supervisor Mike Dougliss said, as he watched two workers from Quiring Monuments maneuver the 380-pound cubes of granite into place. It is, said Ann Abrahamse, the Oak Harbor mother whose sorrow for the forgotten babies turned into a five-month drive to create a memorial. It really is. We did it.For Abrahamse, the idea for the monument and headstones grew from her regular visits to the grave of her infant daughter Sadie, who died in 1998 of sudden infant death syndrome. Sadie is buried in the family plot at Maple Leaf Cemetery and her grave is marked with an angel headstone. But Abrahamse began to notice that many of the tiny graves at the cemetery were marked only with a number.In fact, for years the graves had not been marked at all. But when he became supervisor, Dougliss spent many months searching the cemetery for lost markers, and researching old records to locate unmarked baby graves. As he found them, he marked each one with a number scratched into a round of concrete. He welcomed Abrahamse's suggestion that it was time the community took notice of the small graves, many of them for babies of Navy families, whose parents had to move on without being able to provide a marker. She launched a community fund drive in November and raised more than $5,000, enough to pay for the Babyland monument, which was purchased at cost with the help of Mark and Merrie Burley of Burley Funeral Chapel.More help came from Chris Collins, director of Lake View Cemetery, and Dave Quiring, owner of Quiring Monuments, both in Seattle. After Abrahamse described her mission in a KOMO 4 newscast, the two offered to donate all the individual headstones and have them engraved. When Abrahamse enlisted Dougliss' help back in November he had identified about 40 unmarked graves, some dating back to the 1920s. Since then, the number has grown to 158, and Dougliss believes that all the unmarked baby graves at Maple Leaf are now accounted for. The monument and headstones will be dedicated at a public ceremony on Memorial Day, May 29. And Abrahamse has plans for landscaping and flower beds around the monument, and a nearby angel benchBut first the 158 small headstones must be put in place. Abrahamse is organizing an all-day work party for Saturday, May 20, and volunteers are welcome. For more information, call 675-0349. "

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