Wreaths across America announced last week that the IOOF Cemetery in Farmersville will join the nonprofit’s mission to help citizens Remember the fallen, Honor those who serve and Teach our children the value of Freedom.
The cemetery will be one of 3,100 locations participating in the national nonprofit program that culminates in a special wreath laying ceremony on National Wreaths across America Day Dec. 17 at 11 a.m.
IOOF Board Member Billie Goldstein is leading the cemetery’s effort to support the Wreaths across America program.
Goldstein said she first became interested in the program last year after reading about it in the December 2021 issue of In & Around Magazine https://inaroundmag.com/champions/wreaths-across-america-honors-veterans-2/
The article, combined with the fact that the Goldstein’s family includes many who served or are currently serving, spurred the effort to buy a WAA wreath last year in support of a veteran buried at the Pecan Grove Cemetery in McKinney.
“The veteran was John Stroup, Billie said. “I thought he was related to someone in town.”
It turned out, she said, that Stroup was killed in action at 20 years old, “and he was the baby brother of Betty Vamvakus,” a Farmersville resident.
“Out of all the graves, I got his name,” she said. “He was on a B-26 and my daddy was killed on a B-26. It was a God thing that’s all it was. It really meant a lot to me at that moment. I felt called to serve and do this.”
While finding veteran graves can be challenging for some cemeteries, Mack Hurst and other IOOF board members recently completed a two-year process of modernizing the grave records using a new electronic ledger.
In the process, Hurst said in an earlier interview, they were able to “identify all the veterans in the cemetery.”
“That’s the only way we could have ever done this,” Goldstein said.
Before the ceremony can happen in December, there is much work to do to get prepared to honor veterans laid to rest at the IOOF Cemetery. The goal for IOOF Lodge 228 is to raise enough funds to place 360 sponsored wreaths on all veterans’ headstones.
Goldstein said Independent Financial Bank is underwriting the signs and location cards for each grave and residents Vickie Bunch and Randy Snyder donated funds for the American flags that will be used to mark graves.
Wreath sponsorships are $15 each or donors can buy two and get a third one free.
“We’ve already sold 84 wreaths,” Goldstein said. “I’m so excited.”
Anyone interested in supporting the inaugural Wreaths across America ceremony at the IOOF Cemetery can do so by sponsoring a wreath or volunteering to help. Visit wreathsacrossamerica.org/pages/171234/Overview/?relatedId=150000 or contact Goldstein at 214-868-3485.