Haverhill Marks Wreaths Across America Day at Hilldale Cemetery

Methuen historian Joe Bella places a wreath as part of Wreaths Across America Day at Hilldale Cemetery on Saturday, Dec. 16. (Jay Saulnier photograph for WHAV News.)

Haverhill’s Hilldale Cemetery marked Wreaths Across America Day on Saturday, placing 231 wreaths on veteran graves in a ceremony attended by city residents, dignitaries and veterans.

President of the Hilldale Cemetery Association Tom Spitalere told WHAV that Haverhill’s cemetery was chosen as one of 1,200 locations nationwide to mark the day of remembrance.

Haverhill City Councilor Michael S. McGonagle spoke at Saturday’s event. (Jay Saulnier/WHAV News)

In addition to placing seven ceremonial wreaths for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines and a POW/MIA wreath, Spitalere and volunteer coordinator Tammy Dobrosielski enlisted volunteers to place additional wreaths on veteran graves. Wreaths were sponsored for $15.

“It was a moving day and an honor to be part of such a massive international program to remember our veterans and teach the next generation what it means to have the freedoms that we do,” Dobrosielski told WHAV, adding that 1.5 million wreaths were placed nationwide.

Haverhill’s event was capped off by a presentation from featured speaker City Councilor Michael S. McGonagle and appearances by Mayor James J. Fiorentini, Councilors Thomas J. Sullivan and Joseph J. Bevilacqua and Melinda E. Barrett. Boy Scout Troop 24 from Sacred Hearts in Bradford, local Girl Scouts and the JROTC from Haverhill High presented the colors and said the Pledge of Allegiance.

Saturday’s event was so successful that Spitalere and Dobrosielski are already planning next year’s effort, set for Dec. 15, 2018.

“We made the decision to do this again next year and plan to make this an annual event. I’m hoping next year to do every veteran we have,” said Spitalere. Hilldale is home to approximately 1,000 veteran graves, 471 of which are Civil War soldiers alone.

Spitalere, who assists with the Hope for Hilldale cemetery cleanup effort each spring, is indebted the volunteers who spruced up the grounds so the Wreaths Across America event could take place. More improvements are on the way in 2018, including the possible installation of a gazebo, Spitalere said.

“If it wasn’t for the volunteers who cut the lawn, we never would have been ready for the ceremony,” Spitalere said, telling WHAV that Councilor Barrett and members of Ocasio’s Martial Arts were especially helpful. “We did this ceremony to showcase how the cemetery has shaped up and to give back to our veterans.”