Oak Harbor resident Kelly Davidson had thought her community could “do better” than its previous, small Memorial Day ceremonies.
It turned out she was right.
Davidson, a funeral director at Wallin Funeral Home, teamed up with Maple Leaf Cemetery and local nonprofits and brought her vision to life last May. Recently, she and the cemetery were recognized by the George Washington Charter of Sons of the American Revolution.
The ceremony also made CNN Travel’s list of 10 best Memorial Day destinations in 2019— although Whidbey Island was described as a “short ferry ride away from Seattle.”
“I was happy to be included in such a national rank,” Davidson said.
At a recent cemetery board meeting, Mike Dougliss, Maple Leaf caretaker, accepted the award for “exemplary patriotism” from the local Sons of American Revolution group. Davidson was given the bronze medal for good citizenship.
She also happened to use the event to get a commitment for the group to serve as color guard for next year’s ceremony, in which they’ll be wearing Revolutionary War-era garb.
Last year’s event took more than eight months of planning, so she’s already gearing up for 2020’s iteration. One of her goals is to raise more funding for the Oak Harbor Lions Club, American Legion Post 114 and VFW Post 7392. In 2019, the event resulted in a total donation of approximately $1,300.
She credits her army of volunteers and supporters that included several businesses, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, the fire department, elected officials and a host of nonprofit organizations with the event’s success. This year, she’s accepting help from anyone who wants to participate in any way.
“I’m all about the more the merrier,” Davidson said.
Dougliss said that he’d watched participation and attendance at the annual memorial decline significantly over the decades he lived in the city and during his time as caretaker. He was especially heartened to see more young people attending.
“It was usually older folks who come every year,” he said.
The caretaker is familiar with the cemetery’s 116-year history. In addition to working on the grounds and being a former commissioner, his grandfather, Theodore Dougliss, planted the maple tree in the center of the 10-acre property in 1906.
Its proximity to the base and high number of veterans who’ve been laid to rest there make it the ideal place to gather in the spirit of Memorial Day.
“It’s bringing the community together to recognize the people that sacrificed for this country,” Dougliss said.
Davidson agreed. She said many people forget why Memorial Day is a holiday. She’s continuing to try and change that in Oak Harbor.
“I don’t want it to be a holiday where we all go fishing,” she said. “It’s a holiday for a reason.”
She doesn’t have many details locked in yet for this year’s event, but she’s bursting with ideas for possibilities. If even half those ideas come to fruition, the Oak Harbor celebration seems a likely candidate to make another appearance on the 10-best Memorial Day destinations.
After all, it’s just a short ferry ride from Seattle.