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American Fork dedicates cemetery expansion, opens memorial gardens

AMERICAN FORK — Two hundred American Fork Boy Scouts raised a 50-foot flag Tuesday, only to immediately lower it to half-staff in honor of the Orlando shooting victims.

The flag-raising ceremony on Flag Day was part of a service dedicating an addition to the American Fork Seasons Cemetery as well as to formally open the Seasons Memorial Garden.

American Fork, which was established in 1853, is the largest of the three U.S. cities with the name "American" in its title, Mayor James Hadfield told community members, dignitaries, contractors and military personnel gathered for the event Tuesday.

City Councilman Brad Frost headed the cemetery expansion project joined by community members and the City Parks and Recreation department nearly two years ago. The expansion is just south of the current cemetery, located at what Frost calls the "heart" of the city.

"Our city represents all Americans. This memorial garden pays tribute to those we've lost and those who have suffered loss," Frost said, referring to the recent tragedy in Orlando.

President Barack Obama ordered flags across the country to be lowered to half-staff to honor the victims of the weekend mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub.

The American Fork Seasons Cemetery got its name from the John Keats poem, "The Human Seasons." The garden includes various sections symbolizing different seasons to honor the seasons American Fork residents may pass through in their lives, according to cemetery sexton Ray Garret.

"There needs to be a place where one can go to find peace, where one can go to weep, where one can go to become strong," Garret said.

Jodi Frost, who has lost three siblings, said people in the community need a peaceful place to go to honor their loved ones who have passed.

She said the expansion project originally elicited a neighborhood controversy because it meant an old ball field and long-standing trees would be torn down. But with the beautiful end result, she thinks everyone is happy now.

The Seasons Memorial Garden features a steel sculpture of two clasped hands titled the Statue of Responsibility, created by sculptor Gary Lee Price. The statue is one of the first of many versions of the statue that will be placed across the country signifying unification as a part of the Responsibility Foundation.

Resident Alfredo Arias said the American Fork Seasons Cemetery is more than just a place to honor those who have already died.

"I hope one day, I'm going to come in here," Arias said, "I'm not going to feel like I died, but I'm going to feel like this is a free place for everybody."