When I was a little boy, I was terrified of cemeteries.
No one in my family seems to know why.
I can't recall any early life trauma associated with a cemetery … no hauntings or close encounters of the ghostly kind … but, nevertheless the fear was very real.
It started to fade as I grew up, then vanished altogether during my teen years. In fact, there were times during my high school and college days that I actively sought out cemeteries.
To this day, I'm powerfully drawn to them, but not in a ghoulish way.
I run there.
I read there.
I sit and think there.
I stroll among the head stones reading the names and trying to imagine the faces that went along with them. I wonder who they were and what their lives were like.
I envision friendly spirits sitting there on their plots, conjuring my own version of Thornton Wilder's “Our Town.”
Yes, I know I'm weird!
As a kid growing up on Parkway Drive here in Honesdale, a trek to Glen Dyberry Cemetery always promised adventure.
Many a sun-drenched summer afternoon was spent making the short journey. You could either wade down the Dyberry and then clamber up the bank or ride your bikes across Fair Avenue and then down the loose gravel road.
No matter how loud and chaotic it was in the “outside world” on any particular day, the moment you passed through those gates, silence reigned.
It's a peaceful, respectful silence, though … not a scary or oppressive silence.
There are many stately old trees that guard the perimeter. There are groomed paths that branch off in myriad directions.
In addition, the main section of the cemetery is terraced with the uppermost level reaching all the way up to Watts Hill Road.
It's a lovely place that inspires reflection and even introspection … the kind of place where time seems to stand still.
Many years ago, when the pace of everyday life wasn't so harried, Glen Dyberry was a favorite spot to walk and talk.
Many postcards and photos attest to its popularity. They show nattily dressed couples strolling the well-manicured paths. The men wear bowler hats, the women carry parasols and appear to be practicing the long-lost art of conversation.
The vast majority of head stones at Glen Dyberry are simple and austere.
Inscriptions are limited to the person's name, date of birth and date of death.
Some include places of birth and death. Others have an inspirational quote or Bible verse.
If you look hard enough, though, every once in awhile you come across a mysterious tidbit.
The most intriguing one I've found so far is quite a ways off the beaten path. It lies in a nondescript corner of Glen Dyberry … just an ordinary head stone, but one with an extraordinary message that reads:
“Her best was never enough.”
This one has stayed with me for a long time. It's a phrase open to so many different interpretations.
What would push a person to the point that she'd want those words on her tombstone? After all, it's your epitaph for eternity.
Was she truly so frustrated? Was it a last, desperate plea for attention? Or, even more sinister: Was it the work of a nasty surviving family member bent on getting in one last shot?
I guess we'll never know.
Many war veterans call Glen Dyberry their final resting place.
One of the most famous is Colonel Coe Durland, who fought in nearly 20 battles during the course of the American Civil War.
His impressive monument towers over dozens of smaller markers in the same section of the cemetery.
He enlisted on Sept. 27, 1862 and became a commissioned officer in Company M of the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry.
Durland began his service as a First Lieutenant and was promoted to Captain on Oct. 23, 1862. He moved up to Major on Nov. 20, then to Lt Colonel on Feb. 13, 1865.
Durland attained the rank of full Colonel on March 13. He was discharged June 20, 1865.
Following the war, he “returned to the pursuits of a peaceful industry” as co- founder of the Durland-Thompson Shoe Manafacturing Co, in Honesdale.
Durland's first wife, Antoinette Baird Durland, died just four years after he returned home. Coe eventually re-married, taking Emmeline Gustin as his second wife. She would outlive him by 10 years.
Durland fathered four daughters: Mary, Alice, Isabel and Antoinette.
World War II
One of my favorite spots to visit at Glen Dyberry is a quiet, shaded spot at the top of a hill.
There, a small monument testifies to the the ultimate sacrifice made by one Maple City native.
Most everyone has heard of Art Wall Jr., the legendary local golfer who won the Masters in 1959.
However, very few people remember that he had a younger brother, Dewey, who was every bit as talented an athlete.
The Wall Brothers both learned their way around the links at Honesdale Golf Club and also excelled on the basketball court.
They graduated from HHS, then continued their athletic careers at Keystone Academy before World War II intervened.
Dewey enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to the submarine USS Shark SS-314, which executed missions in the Pacific Theatre.
Sadly, the Shark was reported missing in October of 1944 and presumed lost.
After the war, US investigators uncovered a report from the Japanese destroyer Harukaze which stated it had used 17 depth charges to sink the Shark.
No bodies were ever recovered, so the marker bearing Dewey Wall's name is the only tangible reminder of a life cut tragically short by war.
We as Americans don't place nearly as much emphasis on ancestors as other cultures do.
Sure, most of us trek to the cemetery on Memorial Day or Veterans Day. Other than that, though, the graveyard isn't exactly at the top of our “must visit” destinations list.
I'm not certain why that's the case. In all my visits to Glen Dyberry, I can count on one hand the number of people my age or younger paying their respects.
We plant our flowers, pull a few weeds … maybe even mumble a short prayer … then we're outta there.
And, that's sad.
Glen Dyberry is the kind of place just bursting with history. You can learn a great deal about the local area in general and your own family in particular.
It's a fascinating place. It really is.
So, the next time you have a little bit of free time on your hands, take a walk among the tombstones.
Who knows what you might discover about your town, your family and even yourself!