Seattle’s largest cemetery not hosting 94th annual Memorial Day service due to COVID-19

Seattle's largest cemetery not hosting 94th annual Memorial Day service due to COVID-19

SEATTLE — Evergreen Washelli Cemetery in North Seattle said it will not host Memorial Day events this year, including its 94th annual Memorial Day remembrance service, because of COVID-19 social distancing mandates.

The cemetery said more than 1,000 people typically show up on Memorial Day to honor the women and men who made the ultimate sacrifice. Every year, several hundred volunteers place American flags at gravesites, a tradition that will also not be observed this year.

Despite not hosting any formal events, the cemetery said the area will be open and visitors are free to place the flags themselves — so long as they practice social distancing.

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“I feel it has to be done,” said David Bloch, whose father, WWII veteran Orville Bloch, was buried at the cemetery, KIRO 7 reported. “We’re not to the point yet where we can have groups of people back together.”

In Fall City and a few nearby cemeteries, a much smaller group of volunteers, who were told to wear face coverings and practice social distancing, showed up Saturday to place flags at the grave sites of veterans.

“It’s very important. Being a Marine Corps vet, Iraq twice, I wanted to make sure our vets were honored,” said American Legion Post 79 Commander Rocky Martinez.

Martinez said social distancing guidelines and restrictions have limited their Memorial Day services to one event: a virtual Memorial Day service planned for Facebook Live at noon on Monday.

“Whether there’s fear out there for the pandemic, I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Martinez, who told KIRO 7 the virtual ceremony is a first.

“We don’t have any family that has served,” said Susan Stoddard, who volunteered Saturday with her family. “But I think during this time of COVID-19 and life is precious and wanting to recognize veterans that have given their lives for our country and amazing freedoms.”

Evergreen Washelli Cemetery said it will have its Avenue of Flags flying in honor of veterans on Memorial Day.