New Paltz Rural Cemetery hosts sixth annual Day of Remembrance

Left, Daniel Quintana, Pattie Steffens and seven-year-old Alina Quintana. Center, nine-year-old Ava Quintana. Right, Leigh Quintana and three-year-old Mateo Quintana. (Photos by Sharyn Flanagan)

We reach the end of the calendar page and flip it over to reveal the new month. And there it is: the anniversary of that difficult day we lost a person whom we still miss dearly. And as the years go by, those days pile up and there is hardly a month without one. Many cultures around the world choose a single day to honor their departed; the best known is probably the Hispanic celebration of Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, which combines the ancient Aztec custom of celebrating ancestors with All Souls’ Day.

The concept of setting aside a special day to remember all of our loved ones who have passed away struck a chord with retired foreign language teacher Pattie Steffens. Six years ago, she began hosting an annual Day of Remembrance event each November at the New Paltz Rural Cemetery, where her beloved daughter Alicia Quintana is buried. Going through her own grief made her want to reach out to others to help them handle theirs, she says.

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This year’s Day of Remembrance was held on Sunday, November 5. Despite chilly, drizzly weather, a number of people came and went during the two-hour event. Longtime locals who have a number of relatives and friends in the cemetery went from one gravesite to another to pay their respects, while others had no connection to this particular cemetery but were there to just be with others who were also thinking of their departed loved ones that day.

And that really is the idea behind the event, Steffens says; it’s not a mournful day where formal speeches are made or eulogies given, but rather a low-key community gathering to fondly remember those who are gone who don’t have a Veterans Day or Memorial Day set aside to commemorate their continued importance in our lives.

Under a tent, visitors could help themselves to refreshments donated by local eateries Mexican Kitchen, Los Jalapeños, Mexicali Blue and Los Agaves. Apple cider donuts, apples and other snacks were contributed by Wallkill View Farm, Apple Hill Farm, Dressel Farms, Minored Farms, Mercier Farms and Gillette Creamery.

Informal acoustic music was provided by Evie Schneider, Pam Wiggins, Steve O’Shea, Alberto Flores and Liam O’Neil, all of whom donated their time to be there.

Fresh flowers were donated by Colonial Florist, ShopRite and Tops supermarkets and Meadowscent Florist. The flowers were there for everyone who attended, to be placed on the gravesites there or taken home to put in a vase in remembrance of someone special.

Steffens coordinates all of this herself; there’s no events committee gathering all the donations from local merchants and getting the word out. But organizing another big regional festival is not the point here. Steffens says her goal is to see a Day of Reverence established as a regular holiday, which she and her son, Daniel Quintana, have taken a step toward by securing the domain “Reverence.org.” The website, not yet up and running, will serve as a portal for those who also appreciate the concept of a day of remembrance.

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