Skagit County residents may have had to improvise Monday — but they didn’t let the COVID-19 pandemic stop them from marking Memorial Day with quiet, respectful tributes.

West of Mount Vernon, the Skagit County Master Gardeners had a “drive-by” tribute to those killed in war.

Making an adjustment to a tradition the organization has had for several years, 31 people drove in their cars past elm trees planted along Memorial Highway in honor of county residents who died in World War I.

As they drove by, those in the cars tossed flowers — including red poppies, a longtime symbol of World War I’s dead — near the trees.

Skagit County Master Gardener Dave Buchan said event organizers had to change their more traditional in-person tribute due to restrictions on large gatherings.

“Because of COVID we weren’t sure how to do it,” Buchan said. “Al (Call) came up with idea of drive-by and people responded to it.”

Call, an Army veteran, said, “This year, because of the virus, we decided to do something new. There were a lot of positive comments from people who participated. Even those who couldn’t make it were positive about us taking the initiative even though we couldn’t do the traditional ceremony.”

He said, “No speeches were given, no psalms were recited, no music was played ... just a quiet, respectful drive-by.”

Over the past few years, the Master Gardeners have assisted in the effort to plant 50 trees along Memorial Highway.

There were originally 180 planted along the highway to honor Skagit County soldiers and sailors killed in World War I. Most of the originals were removed during a road-widening project, and only one of those originals is still standing.

At Mount Vernon Cemetery, a small Memorial Day service was held in the afternoon.

Though COVID-19 prevented the public from being invited, video from the service was to be posted Monday night on the Kern Funeral Home website and Facebook page.

At Union Cemetery in Sedro-Woolley, Mayor Julia Johnson and four members of American Legion Post 43 laid a wreath, performed taps and fired three shots to honor military veterans.

“We were all in agreement, those of us that were there, that we just couldn’t let Memorial Day go by without honoring all those who have served and all those who have given their lives in service,” Johnson said following the small ceremony.

Upwards of 100 observers usually take part in Memorial Day ceremonies at the cemetery, where a plaque reads “A nation that honors its veterans is a nation dedicated to the preservation of a freedom won by the sacrifice of life itself.”

The small ceremony was not publicized in order to respect Gov. Jay Inslee’s orders prohibiting large gatherings.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel contributed to this report.

Reporter Trevor Pyle: 360-416-2156, tpyle@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Sports_SVH, Facebook.com/bytrevorpyle

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