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How Petersburg teacher inspired Memorial Day holiday

PETERSBURG, Va. -- A longtime Petersburg teacher is credited with holding the first Memorial Day ceremony and providing inspiration for the national holiday.

Nora Fontaine Davidson, affectionately known as "Miss Nora," taught school with her two sisters in Petersburg for 59 years.

Davidson was also very active in the community. In fact, she helped raise money to outfit Confederate soldiers during the Civil War and established the city's first hospital.

Petersburg teacher credited with first Memorial Day ceremony

Petersburg teacher credited with first Memorial Day ceremony

After the end of the war, Davidson and her students placed flags on the 125 Confederate soldier's graves at Blandford Cemetery on June 9, 1865. Those soldiers had died the year before defending Petersburg.

Union General John Logan's wife, who happened to be visiting the cemetery, told her husband about the teacher and students placing flowers and Confederate flags on the soldiers' graves.

Logan liked the idea of honoring fallen soldiers across the country. In turn, he established National Decoration Day, which was later passed by Congress. Today, the date is known as Memorial Day.

Blandford Cemetery is also home to the graves of veterans of six wars, including 30,000 Confederate soldiers killed in the Siege of Petersburg.

Editor's Note: This story was first published on May 28, 2012.