GLADSTONE — After Sharon Turner’s father passed away in 2005, she and her elder mother relocated to the state of Georgia. Being born and raised in Gladstone, Turner decided to leave her father and his headstone at Fernwood Cemetery where he lay at rest. On her first Memorial Day out of the UP, Turner received pictures from Gladstone native and long-time friend Jerry Clausen, who had decorated her father’s headstone for the holiday without being asked.
“Jerry had started putting flowers on my dad’s grave and he would send pictures to me,” Turner said. “When I asked him why he did it, he would just say’That’s my job,’ and he would do it every year.”
Clausen and his wife, Darlene, have been placing flowers on gravestones in cemeteries throughout the Delta County area for over 30 years. A week before the annual Memorial Day services that are scattered throughout the area, Clausen will spend an entire day buying and placing flowers. While there is no rhyme or reason to how the flowers are chosen or laid, Clausen ensures that loved ones with empty headstones do not go missed.
“Nobody ever puts flowers out for their people. I don’t know how many times I have walked by and seen that there are no flowers on their graves,” Clausen said. “So when I buy for my family I will buy some extra flowers and spread them throughout the cemetery.”
The placing of flowers is a family tradition for Clausen. Ever since he and his siblings were little, his mother would take them to the annual Memorial Day services at the Fernwood Cemetery in Gladstone. After listening to the band play, standing at attention for the 21 gun salute, and watching as members of the local legion marched along the gravesites, the Clausen family would begin laying flowers for people in the cemetery.
“My mom always told me that I had to put flowers on everybody’s grave,” Clausen said. “So she would take me up here and show me where everybody was in the family and I would put flowers out.”
When Clausen’s mother passed, upholding the family tradition fell upon him. Just like his mother, Clausen would bring his children up to the Memorial Day celebrations, teaching them how to ensure that all gravestones have been given the proper care.
“I took over bringing all our kids and family up [to Fernwood] every Memorial Day, showing them the events honoring the veterans for protecting us at war, ” Clausen said. “So now I am trying to teach my daughters to do as I have with the flowers throughout the cemeteries.”
Clausen and his wife will spend over $ 100 at local dollar stores on flowers and small decorations for the gravestones. After ensuring that his family and close friends have been accounted for in the purchased flowers, all extras will be placed on empty headstones as Clausen walks through the cemeteries.
“[My wife and I] will always pick up a few extra just for whoever, ” Clausen said. “I will always send pictures of the decorated gravestones, the Memorial Day parade, and events going on here to those people as well.”
When Turner’s mother passed in 2017, she was reunited with her husband in the Fernwood Cemetery. While Turner still resides in Georgia, Clausen continues to decorate the couple’s joint headstone. Clausen had been good friends with Turner’s parents, Mary and Robert Sandstrom, years before When Robert began to decline in physical mobility during the later years of his life, Clausen would help him do chores and other odd-jobs around the house at no cost.
“[Clausen] just seems to be the type of person who will help anyone out, ” Turner said. “I just remember when he was sending me pictures of the gravestones I thought’That is just so nice and he never asked me for money.’”
Clausen has memorized the paths to and from the various gravestones he intends to decorate in the cemeteries he visits, recipients ranging from family, close and distant, to old family friends, classmates, and random individuals he has met throughout his life. continue his Memorial Day tradition until he one day passes.
“I get those extra flowers and put them out there for them and say’This is from me buddy,’” Clausen said. “But I do this every year no matter what, for family, relatives, and random people I have known.”