Essays,  Photo stories

Visiting the past

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” ~Norman Cousins

Gravestones at Royal Oak Township Cemetery / Cindy La Ferle 

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Cindy La Ferle

Visiting your town’s oldest burial ground is a thought-provoking way to get into the spirit of the Halloween season. It’s not nearly as macabre as it seems, and you’ll be rewarded with several local history lessons. 

Cindy La Ferle

The historic Royal Oak Township Cemetery is just a short drive from our home. The land was donated in 1826 for use as a burial ground, and contains the remains of veterans of several wars, as well as pioneers who settled here two centuries ago. 

Ezra Parker, who served in the American Revolutionary War and died in 1842 is buried here, as is Levi Tootill, who was born in Lancashire, England, in 1809, and was a founder of Royal Oak’s Congregational Church, where my son was baptized. I felt a special connection to Levi, having recently learned that my own pilgrim ancestors sailed to America from England in the 1600s — and were early Congregationalists. 

Cindy La Ferle


A boulder in another section of the cemetery lists the names of township residents who died in the American Civil War and World War I. 

Touring the historic cemetery on a late October weekend, I found the experience both sobering and reflective. I took dozens of photos of the oldest markers, some of which would qualify as works of art. Each had its own story to tell — though some of the stone engravings were eroded by weather and time. I was reminded that most of my so-called struggles pale in comparison to those that my pioneering ancestors faced when they settled in what eventually became a quiet bedroom community. ~Cindy La Ferle

Cindy La Ferle


Throughout my career, I've worked as a book production editor, travel magazine editor, features writer, and weekly newspaper columnist. My award-winning lifestyles features and essays have appeared in many national magazines and anthologies, including Newsweek, Reader's Digest, The Christian Science Monitor, Writer's Digest, Victoria, Better Homes & Gardens, Bella Grace, and more. My weekly Sunday "Life Lines" column ran for 14 years in The Daily Tribune (Royal Oak, MI) and won a First Place (Local Columns) award from the Michigan Press Association. My essay collection, Writing Home, includes 93 previously published columns and essays focusing on parenthood and family life.

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