By Mark Walker
Coming to the aid of America’s armed forces and their families doesn’t end when a service member or loved one dies.
For a dedicated group of Red Cross volunteers, that now means making sure the 120-acre grounds of the Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake are kept in pristine condition.
The cemetery was previously maintained by a volunteer couple from the surrounding community, forced to stop due to health issues. Now the local Red Cross is providing additional tools and, soon, a team to keep the beautification work going.
The effort is led by 68-year old Spokane volunteer Terry Culveyhouse, a retired nurse and U.S. Army major.
“It’s so beautiful and peaceful there, and we’re working to make sure it stays that way,” said Culveyhouse, whose team includes best friend and “battle buddy” Cathy Anderson, and a man whose mother is buried at the cemetery. The team is rounded out by Culveyhouse’s ex-husband, U.S. Navy Senior Chief David Hoover.
“We’re excited to get going because we now have all the tools we need to spruce up the grounds,” Culveyhouse said, adding the goal is to have to work just a few hours a week after getting the grounds ship-shape.
Cemetery Director Rudy Lopez said the 10-year-old cemetery on Medical Lake’s Espinola Road honors those who served and eligible family members. Working with the Red Cross volunteer gardeners is a boon for cemetery beautification, he added.
The team will also ride herd over the cemetery scatter garden where loved ones’ ashes are spread. “These volunteers help us honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans by helping provide a dignified final resting place,” Lopez said.
He added the Red Cross is great fit for the state-operated cemetery.
Volunteers will need to comply with current guidelines for social distancing, but with lots of ground to cover, the work can be done with little to no interaction with others.
“The Red Cross has always been a supporter, and these folks are committed to the mission and have the volunteer management skills,” Lopez said.
Culveyhouse said becoming a Red Cross volunteer was spurred in part by an experience when her ex-husband’s mother fell ill.
“They were right there the whole time offering any help we needed,” she said. “That really stuck with me.”
Senior Chief Hoover said he was glad to join the team.
“One day I am going to be buried there,” said Hoover, adding he will retire from active duty soon and enjoys gardening and helping others.
Learn more about volunteering with the American Red Cross. Visit RedCross.org/volunteer.