Let’s appreciate our local cemeteries
To the editor:
The month of May in Iowa has been proclaimed “Cemetery Appreciation Month” by the Office of the Governor. The proclamation says in part that we dedicate this month to the care of our pioneer cemeteries.
A quote from a New York Times Editorial states: “We will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.” Please look around your neighborhood for the remnants of a pioneer burial site, defined in the Iowa Code as “a cemetery that has had fewer than twelve burials in the past fifty years.” Chances are that there is such a sacred, historic place that needs your attention. Cleaning up a cemetery, straightening the monuments, and rescuing it from years of apathy and neglect is a rewarding experience for an individual or a community service group.
Over the past year in Jefferson County, the very old Hopkirk Cemetery near Lockridge was made accessible to a group of Hopkirk family descendents – I was invited to tag along and help photograph the headstones to preserve their images. The cemetery had not been cleared of brush and vines for many years, so to have it cleared and the headstones accounted for meant a lot to those Hopkirk descendants.
Two larger cemeteries, Abingdon and Brethren Dunkard, have had volunteers over the past two years go out and make repairs to broken headstones, and reset them if fallen.
As Memorial Day approaches, many of us will go to cemeteries to place flowers in honor of our veterans. While many larger cemetery staffs will see to it that the lawns are mowed and fallen limbs cleared away, some of the smaller cemeteries (49 Pioneer-status ones in Jefferson County) may look neglected. Take a few minutes to set aside fallen limbs, gently brush away dirt and grime from aging headstones, and if the situation is severe, contact the cemetery owners or township trustees and let them know that the deceased deserve to have their final resting spots preserved with dignity and honor.
For more information about how to get involved in cemetery preservation, contact Don Aldrich or visit the web site of the State Association for the Preservation of Iowa Cemeteries (SAPIC):
– Richard K. Thompson, Fairfield