SOUTH PORTLAND — A once-abandoned cemetery has been given another new breath of life with the addition of a cluster of flags raised to honor the nation’s veterans.
The Highland Memorial Cemetery Association agreed earlier in the year to erect new flagpoles for each branch of the military, as well as one for the U.S. flag, association Secretary Barbara Smith said.
The flags are at the southeast corner of the cemetery, near Highland Avenue.
“There are a lot of veterans in the cemetery, though it’s not just a veterans cemetery strictly speaking,” Smith said. “We just thought it would be a nice gesture and be nice, which it is.”
Flags were raised for the first time on the new poles on Aug. 24. Representatives of each branch of the military – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard – raised their flags while a trumpeter played “Taps.” Also present were the South Portland VFW Color Guard and members of the VFW and cemetery association.
The cemetery association payed more than $4,000 to erect the six flagpoles, Smith said, and the VFW donated new flags.
The condition of the cemetery today – even without the shiny, new veterans memorial – is a far cry from the darker moments of its history. Though it was established in 1925, its owners abandoned it a few decades later.
By 1974, the South Portland Lions Club, led by Smith’s husband, Arthur, began maintaining the cemetery. The club took full ownership in 1986.
The cemetery association, made up of members of the Lions Club and the general public, was formed shortly thereafter as stewards of the cemetery. The association pays for a full-time cemetery superintendent, whose job it is to take care of the cemetery.
About 1,100 people are buried at Highland, and only half the 14-acre cemetery is developed. That half could hold up to 6,000 people, according to a 2005 city document.
If the other half is developed, the cemetery could hold up to 10,000 people. Highland has the most available space of any cemetery in South Portland.
The new veterans memorial at Highland Memorial Cemetery in South Portland. The memorial features flags from each of the five branches of the military, plus a large American Flag.
A soldier prepares to raise the U.S. Army flag at a new memorial in South Portland’s Highland Memorial Cemetery on Aug. 24.
Members of the South Portland VFW’s Color Guard watch as the American flag is raised at a new veterans memorial in South Portland’s Highland Memorial Cemetery on Wednesday, Aug. 24.