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On Memorial Day weekend, Utahns pause to reflect upon lives of family, sacrifices of service members

Published: Sunday, May 25 2014 6:50 p.m. MDT

Morgan Pearce looks over the grave of her great-great-aunt after placing flowers with her family at the Salt Lake City Cemetery Sunday, May 25, 2014.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Heidi Smith took a scrub brush to the grave marker of her maternal grandparents Alma and Lawrence Bonham Sunday morning.

As she and other family members visiting Salt Lake City Cemetery tidied up their graves and that of a great-aunt who died before Smith was born, she reflected on previous generations of her family and how those relationships shaped the person she is today.

"It's very important to us that we never forget where we come from. Part of our character comes from these people right here," she said.

Smith said she enjoyed a close relationship with her grandparents. They taught by example that one of the best gifts to give a child is time, she said.

"Having a sleepover at Nanny's was more important than any gift we could get. We would watch Lawrence Welk and have shish kabobs" made of bologna and cubes of Velveeta cheese, she recalled.

Smith said one her greatest joys has been spending quality time with her children and grandchildren, whether they are enjoying a family cookout or traveling.

Smith's daughter Jessica Pearce, who had just returned to Utah from Guam, where her husband Todd has been serving in the military, said this was the first time her entire family had visited the gravesites of her great-grandparents.

The visit gave the Pearces' daughters Lindsey and Morgan an opportunity "to see what their grandparents do" to honor those who came before them, Jessica Pearce said.

The girls helped place pots of mums at each grave, which has been a family tradition for 50 years, Smith said.

After decorating graves in Salt Lake, Smith said the family would next travel to Lehi to visit the graves of her husband Steve Smith's relatives.

"It's one day a year. It doesn't hurt you to take time and reflect," he said.

Elsewhere in the Salt Lake Cemetery, Dan and Lis McConkie and their sons were visiting the grave of the couple's infant son Christian. The baby was buried in a tiny plot shared with a cousin, who also died in infancy.

For their family, Memorial Day weekend is an occasion to remember family members who passed before them and to pay tribute to men and women in the nation's military who served to protect the nation's freedoms, McConkie said. McConkie's father Oscar McConkie and his three uncles each served in the military, he said.

"We always do it (visit family graves) after paying our respects to the great men and women in uniform who fell. To me, that's Memorial Day," he said.

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com

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