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Officials at Historic Oakwood Cemetery in downtown Raleigh are preparing to honor Raleigh’s departed with their first All Saints’ Day Ceremony in November.
Traditionally, All Saints’ Day is an observance honoring Christian saints, both known and unknown. Many mark the day by remembering loved ones who have passed on.
Oakwood’s outdoor ecumenical service, which is free and open to the public, will take place Nov. 4 at the Hillside South section of the cemetery, and will be led by Rev. Rick Clayton of Hayes Barton United Methodist Church.
Robin Simonton, executive director of Oakwood Cemetery, has been busy trying to inform family members of those recently interred at Oakwood about the ceremony. She has already mailed letters inviting families of those interred over the past year, but wants to spread the word to people with family who were buried there at any time.
“We can’t think of a more memorable way to celebrate All Saints’ Day,” Simonton said.
In conjunction with the All Saints’ Day ceremony, the nonprofit cemetery, founded in 1869, will commemorate the day with an orange ribbon campaign. For $25 each, graves of loved ones can be marked with orange ribbons. Simonton says they believe a “sea of orange” will be striking for the service. Those without family members at Oakwood can adopt a grave.
“We think about what we’re doing for families and how to be better neighbors in general,” Simonton said. “We’re here to serve families, and we want people to think of this cemetery as part of the community.”
The cemetery, home to a two-and-a-half-acre Confederate graveyard, holds a special service to honor veterans on Memorial Day. It also has a popular annual Sons of Confederate Veterans Lantern Walk, an hour-long program featuring a guided tour through headstones of Confederate soldiers. The Lantern Tour happens Oct. 27.
Beyond the All Saints’ Day observance, Simonton is anxious to hear from anyone with connections to the 22,000 buried at Oakwood.
“We would love to know more about the people who are buried here and to have a relationship with those families,” she said. “We are a repository for Raleigh and North Carolina history. We would love to share our family stories.”