WOOLWICH TWP. — A few weeks prior to Memorial Day in 2017, a member of the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, located in Swedesboro contacted VFW member Charles Wells, Commander of the Harrison/ Woolwich Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10886 with a request.
The church member explained that the Church wanted to conduct a Memorial Day service to honor the Civil War veterans buried in the Mount Zion Cemetery. The church leaders wanted to know if the VFW could provide support for the service and the Post agreed to do so.
The Friday before Memorial Day, Dr. Karyn Collier (Swedesboro Animal Hospital) our contact at Mt. Zion A.M.E., called to say that the Church had decided to postpone the service because they had not been able to get anyone to cut the grass in the cemetery.
After taking part in Swedesboro’s Memorial Day ceremony, five members of the Post went over to Mt. Zion Cemetery and conducted a brief ceremony themselves to honor the Civil War Veterans buried there.
During their service that day, the small group, made up of the Post Chaplain Don Moul, the Post Commander, two Post Trustees, Joseph Makely and Ray Berger, and Member Bill Nickerson, decided to bring the condition of Mt. Zion Cemetery to Post members.
The cemetery property is approximately one-fourth acre in size and contains more than 200 graves. Many of the headstones have sunk into the ground, others have toppled over and some are undisturbed. Those still standing vary in size and quality, with two that stand about five feet tall.
During their next meeting, the Post discussed the needs of the cemetery and voted to make the care of the Mt. Zion Cemetery an on-going Post project. Since Mt. Zion Cemetery is a National Historic Site, their project would be limited to cutting the grass and trimming where necessary, particularly around the tomb stones and tree line.
This decision was relayed to Dr. Collier and a week later, the Post was notified that Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church had accepted our offer.
In early September, several members of the Post spend several hours cutting the grass, trimming and picking up broken tree limbs. Things that needed the church’s attention were noted and passed on to Dr. Collier.
As a culmination of their earlier efforts at 8 a.m. on Veterans Day, a small group of men lead by member Bill Nickerson, conducted a short service at the cemetery and placed American flags beside the tomb stones of the eight Army and two Navy Veterans buried there.
Included in this group were the Post Commander, the Post’s Chaplain, Don Moul, Post Trustee Joseph Makely, and members Bill Nickerson and Dave Walmsley.