Over 65 members of the Aurora area turned out in full force Thursday afternoon, May 21, at Maple Park Cemetery in Aurora.
They were there for multiple reasons connected to the Memorial Day weekend tributes, but were joined together for a couple of hours due to a common cause to pay tribute to the late Kenneth Warren Ackley. Ackley, a local historian/veteran and creator of the Aurora Veterans
Memorial at the entry to Maple Park Cemetery, died in November of 2019 at the age of 84. One of his passions was making sure the graves of area veterans had American Flags placed on them for Memorial Day.
His son, Chris Ackley picked up the barrels of flags, the maps of the cemetery and parked his truck near the entrance. Soon, his son, Lucas, daughter-in-law Jolee, and 22 month-old grandson, Lane, were waiting to get their assignments from “Mama Mobley.”
“It has become a family thing,” Chris Ackley stated, indicating his desire to pay tribute to something that was so important to his father.
Each year for well over a decade Ken Ackley had organized the placement of flags on the graves of veterans buried in Aurora. In turn, he hosted regular Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies, where he always ended them by saying “freedom isn’t really free.”
Despite worries across the world about the ongoing pandemic, local volunteers of all ages and interests turned out and represented the likes of the Aurora Rotary Club, Aurora Lions Club, Project RISE, GRO, Aurora City Council, Main Street Aurora, the Aurora Chamber of Commerce,
Zeros4Heroes, First Independent Bank, area churches and the Aurora High School Football Team, whose coach—Craig Weldy—has made this part of an annual community commitment. In addition, several of those volunteering were veterans themselves or indicated their sons, daughters, fathers, and brothers were veterans, as well.The volunteers made short work of their assignments and managed to get the flags placedbefore Thursday evening’s showers took place.
“Thank you all for remembering our heroes. This comes from a mother who has children serving in the military,” stated a Facebook post from Mary Lynn Venable, a longtime Auroran.
“Your dad would be so proud,” Marsha Egan, one of the volunteers, said to Chris Ackley.
“We’re just carrying on his legacy,” responded Chris Ackley, who indicated his efforts to
continue the flag placement will continue.
The Ackley family had placed flags in the Old City Cemetery on Wednesday, May 20. Scott and Walt Pettit helped the Ackleys place flags at Mount Calvary on the morning of May 21 .
All totaled, over 1,200 area veterans were honored with the flags placed on their graves in time for the Memorial Day weekend. Plans to purchase more flags and stickers are in the works for next year.
Cemetery staff has indicated it will retrieve the flags in a few days.