My interest in cemeteries goes back to my childhood, having my own pet cemetery and making crosses for each, using lathes and old paint. That was many "Mr. Moons" ago, (since I have passed the 60 year mark.)
As a teenager I mowed Cannon Cemetery, Carroll County, Missouri, with a push mower, which has about 50 some graves, and about three miles from our home. Beginning this job,circa 1966, I wasn't even old enough to drive yet, so my father and I would load up the mower in the back of his pickup. He would use hand clippers around the stones while I mowed. Our father was the best ever, and helped instill good work ethics in us three kids, starting at an early age. It was big money back then, $5.00 to mow the whole cemetery. By the time I gave up the job, some 7 or 8 years later, the pay had risen to $7.00. Gasoline was steady at 19 cents per gallon, of which my father was kind enough not to charge me for, but let me know, that one day, it would become my own responsibility. As I mowed, I wondered about the lives of those buried there. Dad would tell me stories of those he had known, and always with kindness as he spoke of others.
Those same work ethics were provided to me by our mother as well. My brother, six years older, and my sister, three years older, were both working at Bales' Orchard, a few miles west of our home. I was only 9 years old, but the manager, Elvin Elliott, told my mother "just leave her here too, and we'll keep her busy and see how it works out". I'm guessing it worked out, as I worked there every summer until after I graduated from high school. Our pay for picking strawberries was 3 cents per quart and I was always very proud to take the punched cards to Dr. Bales' office to 'cash in'. Looking back, I'm sure my mother spent more on my sacked lunch (we called it dinner in those days), those first couple of years of my 'employment', but she taught me the value of where the dimes came from. We worked for them. She, too, was a treasure to filling my life with lessons of love, values, respect, honesty, caring for others and earning our way. Same as our father taught us.
I accidentally came across FindaGrave while looking for famous interments. I mentioned it to my Sister, and upon her investigation, she discovered that local cemeteries were also listed. She right away started entering family interments, and it had just grown from there.
My daughters and my sister's family said that we were "ate up with it". Each person who has entered and left this world is special, and that life deserves to be recognized. We were quite addicted to exploring, documenting and "wandering and wondering." My sister and I made a trip in mid June, 2009, to attend a Willis reunion in Ellington, MO. Through a photo request of our paternal great grandparents, we connected up with a cousin that we didn't know we had.(Thanks Betty Radford). Through our works with Findagrave and by accepting the reunion invitation, we had the pleasure to meet other cousins. "Sis" and I also visited the graves of both sets of our paternal great grandparents graves, and were guided to the farm where our grandfather was born. It was an amazing trip, and once again, like little girls, we "cackled" the whole trip.
I believe that God gave us this time together, just the two of us, because very sadly, my sister, age 59 passed away suddenly 15 days after our trip. I would explain our sister/friend relationship as this "we were so close, you couldn't have put a flat toothpick between us." She was an amazing woman and I am humbled without her presence in my life, same as that of my parents and my brother. When my sister died, first of us 3, my only regret was that we didn't get to grow old together. It was then that I coined the saying "Each Day Counts", because they certainly do. Fill them wisely and with no regrets.
My riches have been from having loving parents, the love and protection of my only brother and only sister, being blessed with my two daughters and four grandsons, extended family, and scores of friends who waltzed across my life. To my daughters, I'd like for them to know "It's not what I've left in your hand,..but in your heart".
I have posted a memorial for my beloved sister Linda Kathaleen (Willis) Stephenson.
I have also posted a memorial for my beloved brother.
Robert Allen "Bob" Willis
In loving memory of my dear brother. God only gave me one brother, turns out, you were the best, and all I ever needed. "Dumpy"
Having 4 grandsons, I have included them in my wanderings and wonderings. Teaching them that same reverence and remembrance as my father had taught to me. As they grow older, they won't remember this grandmother in the kitchen baking cookies, but rather the one who took them to many cemeteries in Carroll County. Where they would learn to search, document, photograph, straighten stones, subtract without pen & paper, respect, history, and to honor those who have gone before us. They will know serenity and the nature around them. Such as sightings of deer, turkey, bugs, butterflies, turtles, snakes, birds, flowers, the ever changing clouds in the sky, and yes,...sweltering heat, bitter cold, chiggers and know how to recognize oak and ivy. Hopefully too, they will remember our picnics while on those adventures, surrounded by so many spirits of souls, our conversations of wonderments and the togetherness. They might one day realize that their maternal grandmother was 'never one to conform to conformity'. No need to apologize for who we are, each one of us has our own uniqueness, and may it be a positive remembrance of who we once were.
Please email with any corrections, and I am not opposed to transfer ownership to anyone wanting to post a full memorial. EACH DAY COUNTS!