Local volunteers trying to keep memories alive with the Tombstone Project

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MARYSVILLE — Memorial Day is a sacred time at the Marysville Cemetery, as loved ones pay respects to those no longer with us.

“It’s a good day. This is when we can celebrate people who have walked before us on the path,” Vietnam veteran Larry Taylor said Monday.

But not every grave in the cemetery is adorned with flowers or flags. Some memorials are crumbling and sinking into the ground. Taylor doesn’t want the memories of the people behind those memorials to fade as well.

“It takes every one of us to create a fabric of our society, every person is important out here.”

A few years ago, he started taking pictures of headstones and uploading them to FindAGrave.com. He found out other people were doing the same thing.

“I’ve always been interested in names and dates and relationships,” said Kathy Bowman, another volunteer photographer.

“My parents used to travel to different cemeteries and we'd try to locate family graves,” added Tami Sherrill.

Together, they started the nonprofit ‘Tombstone Project’ with the goal of documenting every grave site in Snohomish County. But they soon realized it wasn’t enough to photograph markers. They wanted to do something about the ones not standing the test of time.

“Those temporary markers that have just a name but no dates, what is the history between that?” Sherrill asks. “How can we preserve that history? Because that marker is going to deteriorate.”

Two weeks ago, they installed their first new headstone. It was for a woman named Elizabeth Armstrong who died in Marysville in 1916. They hope to get grants and donations and replace 300 more stones in the next year.

“We have a lot that we have identified, but we have a lot more to do,” said Sherrill.

Taylor knows some people only come to cemeteries to visit their own loved ones. But he said it’s become his duty to make sure everyone is remembered.

“I feel that every person has their own story, and the tombstone basically is the period of that story.”

The volunteers say before they replace any tombstone, they do extensive research to make sure they have the correct names and dates. They also try to reach out to family members if they can find them.

If you want to find out more about the Tombstone Project, email info@stillygen.org. Donations can be addressed to the Tombstone Project, PO Box 34, Arlington, WA, 98223.

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