Neil Hubbard plays the bagpipes in front of a memorial at Floral Hills cemetery in Lynnwood Monday morning. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Neil Hubbard plays the bagpipes in front of a memorial at Floral Hills cemetery in Lynnwood Monday morning. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Memorial Day tradition continues in Lynnwood amid pandemic

Loved ones placed flags at Floral Hills cemetery as bagpipes played in the distance Monday morning.

LYNNWOOD — Bagpipes echoed “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America” through the misty cemetery Monday morning, as people visited the graves of loved ones.

Neil Hubbard played his instrument as he walked toward a monument dedicated to those who have died while serving in the U.S. military. He wore a kilt made of a green, blue and red plaid fabric.

He has performed on Memorial Day for the past 15 years at Purdy & Walters at Floral Hills cemetery in Lynnwood. This year was different because of the pandemic.

About a dozen people gathered behind him to listen as he marched through the grounds decorated with American flags. Everyone left plenty of space between one another, and many wore face masks. Usually the crowds are much bigger, said Hubbard, who has played the bagpipes for 31 years.

Memorial Day isn’t the first holiday this year that has been out of the ordinary for the bagpiper. He usually is busy during St. Patrick’s Day, but businesses began to close down around that time in March.

“All of the gigs I was going to play in pubs got canceled,” he said.

Bagpiper Neil Hubbard plays while marching past visitors Monday at Floral Hills cemetery in Lynnwood. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Bagpiper Neil Hubbard plays while marching past visitors Monday at Floral Hills cemetery in Lynnwood. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

That morning, a nursing home asked him to play outside for residents. He visited four different care centers that day.

“I’ve been doing that ever since,” he said.

At the Lynnwood cemetery, he also usually performs on the weekend leading up to Memorial Day, as children in Scouts programs place flags near headstones. That didn’t happen this year, either.

The monument at Floral Hills was built about 25 years ago, by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 423 of Lynnwood. They’ve spent Memorial Day there just as long.

Ben Johnson helps his mother, Sadie, arrange flowers for his father, Ben, Monday at Floral Hills cemetery in Lynnwood. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Ben Johnson helps his mother, Sadie, arrange flowers for his father, Ben, Monday at Floral Hills cemetery in Lynnwood. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

All the labor and materials were donated back then, chapter president Greg DeLos Santos Jr. said.

He’s been part of the organization since the 1990s and has been president for the past seven years. He was in the Navy for 22 years, and served for 16 at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. He’s now retired from the military.

Typically the Memorial Day tribute includes a color guard, jazz band, speakers and refreshments for those who stop by the chapter’s tent.

“Unfortunately this year it’s a little different,” DeLos Santos said.

The group had set up a table under an umbrella, and handed out small American flags to those who passed by — no coffee carafe in sight.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

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