On Sunday, in observance of Memorial Day weekend, area families brought flowers and visited with loved ones resting in one of three Milton cemeteries.

Members of the Berger family observed what has become a family tradition since the death in 2015 of Ruth Berger. They gathered with lawn chairs in a circle around Ruth’s grave in St. Mary Cemetery, placed a basket of flowers, “caught up” and shared memories, Ruth’s sister-in-law, Glenda, said.

Family members rounding out the circle included Glenda’s husband, Bill; his twin brother and Ruth’s husband, Bob; Bill and Bob’s sister, Mary, and Brian and Anne Vanderbloemen. Anne is Bob and Ruth’s daughter and Brian is her husband.

Buried near where the family was seated are Bob, Bill and Mary’s parents, Fred and Rose Berger. The couple raised their family in Milton, and today, Bill, Glenda and Bob live in Janesville. Mary, Anne and Brian live in Madison.

Fred Berger was from Milton and served in the military, Bill said. He served during World War II in the Army Air Corps. Bill and Bob also served in the military, Mary said: Bill served during Korea and Bob was in Vietnam.

Bob still recognizes the holiday as Decoration Day, proclaimed in 1868, with its first observance as a national holiday on May 30 1890. The holiday underwent a name change, with focus more prominently placed on military service, after World War II.

Ruth spent 35 years, working on and off, Bob said, as an accountant at the Janesville Gazette.

COVID-19 made this year’s Memorial Day tradition different, the family said. Normally they would go to a restaurant for lunch after visiting the cemetery, Bob said, but restaurants and hair salons, for him, were still off the table.

Time together in the cemetery was a way to gather safely, Bill and Glenda said, adding that they missed spending time with their kids and grandkids.

Anne and Brian, both music teachers in different school districts, Anne in Middleton and Brian in McFarland, said normally Brian would be marching in a Memorial Day parade.

“Not this year,” Anne said. Both members of the couple were teaching from home. Both said their school years would end the first week of June.

Diane and John Schmidt, both of Milton, were in St. Mary Cemetery to visit several relatives, including John’s brother, Thomas, who died in a car accident in 1992. They also visited John’s parents: Jacqueline (1933 to 1977) and Robert (1926 to 2014).

Robert was a veteran, Diane said. He served in the Army during Korea as a tank mechanic sergeant.

Diane, too, has family members buried in St. Mary Cemetery.

A member of the Manogue family, Diane said a nearby street was named for the family, which emigrated from Ireland in the 1800s.

In 1942, as a soldier in his mid-twenties, James Manogue, noted on his gravestone as a “Co. A Tank BN” and “Hero of Bataan,” died during World War II in the Philippines during the Bataan Death March, Diane said.

John said the couple visits the cemetery over Memorial Day weekend each year “just to bring flowers out and try to get out.”

They have been visiting St. Mary, and Milton Cemetery on Janesville Street where Diane’s father, John Manogue, a Korean veteran is buried, for 30 years, John said.

In Milton Junction Cemetery, Jan and Arnie Oswald, both of Lake Geneva, were visiting Jan’s parents, Corwin and Virginia Hilton. Jan grew up in a house on Madison Avenue, she said. Virginia died in 2015 and Corwin was buried in March. The couple raised five children. Both of her parents lived into their 90s, Jan said.

Corwin served in the Air Force during World War II. He was a gunner on a B-24 bomber. He was stationed stateside and served between 1942 and 1946, she said.

Family members often visit the cemetery, Jan said, but with COVID-19, she and Arnie had been staying close to home.

Both said they were glad to be outside.

“This is the farthest we’ve ventured out (since COVID-19),” Jan said.

Flowers and decorations adorned several graves in Milton Cemetery, where Milton’s history, at its inception, is often remembered.

Placed prominently in the cemetery’s older section is the gravesite of Ezra — son of Milton founder Joseph Goodrich — and his wife, E.L. Goodrich. Epitaphs on their monument note that Ezra was born in 1826 in Alfred, New York, and E.L. was born in 1832 in Salisbury, Conn. They died in 1916 and 1892, respectively, and found their final resting place in Milton.

A brief history of Milton’s cemeteries can be found online: www.miltoncourieronline.com.

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