Written by Leah Peterson @ Cooksley’s Clear Creek Farm

Near the small community of Weissert, and across the road from our ranch, sits the tiny country plot of land known as “Lone Tree Cemetery”. Established in 1883 by the early settlers in our valley, it tells the story of generations upon generations of our first Nebraskans and those who were dedicated to the establishment of Agriculture in Nebraska.

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This time of May is one of the most beautiful in our part of Nebraska. The blooming of the summer lilacs provide one of my favorite scents and sights. They also serve as a reminder of a sacred holiday for our family, that being Memorial Day.

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Lone Tree cemetery celebrates 130 years this year. While many of our little country cemeteries have disappeared from view behind over grown trees and weeds, this little place has been the recipient of care by members of our community over all these years. It is still an active place, with local people choosing it as their final resting place, going alongside others whose stones have faded and been worn away making them nearly impossible to read. Still, each May the grass is carefully trimmed, and brightly colored arrangements appear at nearly every stone, honoring the memory of those who lie there.

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Summer lilacs were always clipped with care by my siblings and me. Since we grew up near the Lone Tree Cemetery, we would gather them up and walk or ride our bikes to the final resting places of our ancestors. Mom would plant colorful baskets of flowers to go along with our homemade arrangements, and dad would see that the mowing and trimming were done properly and that the stones were clean and in good condition.

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Aside from these activities, a yearly tradition is to attend Memorial Day services in our local town of Broken Bow. This particular service honors men and women who have fallen in all the wars since America was born. My grandfather, and now my father (both veterans) have served as the commander of the military honors always part of these services. In my 34 years, I have never missed one.

Kevin Cooksley presiding over Memorial Day services in Broken Bow
Kevin Cooksley presiding over Memorial Day services in Broken Bow

Memorial Day is the unofficial kick off to summer and the end of the school year. For us, it also serves as the gateway to sending all animals to summer pastures, celebrating the completion of planting season, and also a day to catch our breath before transitioning to a new season. We spend the day honoring our fallen, remembering our ancestors, and smiling and laughing with those around us.

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You may or may not know that there are Memorial Day services in nearly every community in this state, most of them organized and entirely put on by volunteers. As you make your plans for this Memorial Day weekend, would you kindly consider attending your local services? They are remarkable in many ways, for they provide a way to give thanks to our service men and women, remembering your own lost loved ones, and teach an invaluable lesson about the sacrifices made so that we may celebrate this Memorial Day in a free country, standing on the shoulders of many who built the ranches, farms, and communities we live and prosper in…today.

God bless our fallen service men and women, and those who still serve on this Memorial Day.

You are not forgotten.

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Leah Peterson

Leah Peterson is a native Nebraskan, living on the ranch her ancestors homesteaded in 1878. She and her husband Matt, met at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and returned to the ranch in 2012 after working and living in Central Nebraska the past 12 years. They are parents to two daughters, Maggie and Lucy. Leah has an undergrad degree from UNL in Communication Studies, and a MA in Leadership from Bellevue University. Aside from her work at the ranch and opportunity to be a stay at home mom, she enjoys writing, photography, community involvement, spending time with friends and family and trying new recipes in her kitchen. Leah published her first children's book in 2011 titled "An Apple for Dapple" and enjoys traveling throughout the state to share her book with children and raise awareness about the importance Agriculture in Nebraska.

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