New Paltz Rural Cemetery will host fourth annual Day of Remembrance on November 1

Pattie Steffens places flowers on her daughter’s grave at the New Paltz Rural Cemetery. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Pattie Steffens places flowers on her daughter’s grave at the New Paltz Rural Cemetery. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

The fourth annual Day of Remembrance to be held at New Paltz Rural Cemetery this Sunday, November 1 is intended to give everyone in the community a place to come together for solace on a day that many cultures throughout the world remember their loved ones who have passed, says Pattie Steffens, organizer of the event. “It’s really just about fond memories, and lovingly remembering those who are gone who don’t have a Veterans Day or a Memorial Day set aside to remember them.”

Readers contemplating attending the event may wonder: Is this something where I’ll be asked to speak about my loved ones or make some kind of statement? Not at all, Steffens says; the event won’t involve any speeches or ceremonies and it won’t be sorrowful or religious in nature. And despite it being held on November 1 to coincide with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) — recognized throughout the world with lively festivals to celebrate the departed — it’s not intended as a party, either.

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What it will be is simply a time set aside in a beautiful place to casually gather with friends and remember all the loved ones we’ve lost from our lives who are still important to us. People can come and stay for five minutes of quiet reflection and then leave, or they can visit with others and stay a while to enjoy the music and refreshments, says Steffens. She’d also like people to know that they don’t have to have a loved one buried at the Rural Cemetery to attend; all are welcome.

Live music will be provided by singers and musicians Evelyn Schneider, Roger Weiss, Buffy Lewis, Stephen O’Shea and Katie Weston, all of whom have donated their time to be there. Their acoustic performances will be informal.

Food for the event has been donated by Mexicali Blue and Wallkill View, Apple Hill and Dressel farms.

Fresh flowers have been donated by Colonial Florist, Stop & Shop and ShopRite. The flowers are there for everyone who attends; they can be placed on the gravesites of loved ones buried at the cemetery or taken home to be put in a vase in remembrance of someone special. If somebody has family buried in another cemetery nearby, they might even wish to take an extra bloom or two to decorate that grave.

The event begins at 1 p.m. and everything is free of charge.

Steffens says she would love to see November 1 become a recognized day of remembrance everywhere. As the years go by and more people we love pass away, it can be complicated to remember all the exact dates they died. Having one day set aside to remember all of our loved ones and doing it on the same day that so many other people in the world are honoring their dead struck a chord with Steffens, especially after she started reading up on not only Day of the Dead ceremonies worldwide but the many countries that honor their departed at this time of year with flowers and candles.

She began organizing the event several years after becoming a board member of the New Paltz Rural Cemetery. Steffens volunteered for the position after losing her daughter, Alicia Quintana, eight years ago. “After my daughter was buried there, it became another place that I wanted to be,” she says. “And one I wanted to help and support.” Organizing the Day of Remembrance events became a means to reach out to others. “I’m just a retired foreign language teacher who has loved every bit of life and teaching, and have gone through all this grief and just want to help others handle theirs.”

Steffens is also inspired by family members who have created their own way of remembering. Her daughter-in-law creates a centerpiece on the dining room table every year, placing items like jewelry or a recipe card from a loved one who has passed away. It’s not a shrine, explains Steffens; just a beautiful changing display that allows the family to talk with the kids about their relatives who have passed. “She can tell them, ‘This was my grandmother’s necklace and she was wonderful.’ Some of the children were born after the people died and never knew them, but this brings them close and gives them a little family history lesson on November 1.”

The New Paltz Rural Cemetery is located at 81 Plains Road in New Paltz.

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