Snow storm hits local cemeteries
Her first view of Graceland Cemetery after Friday's blizzard left Gale Winter speechless.
"I could have cried," she said.
The storm felled 10 big pine trees and a few headstones at the site in the town of Superior along Cemetery Road.
"We have trees that are uprooted and trees that are broken off," Winter said. One tangle of three trees rests on top of headstones, wrapping them in a piney embrace.
"Graceland got it pretty bad," said Jim Plunkett, the sexton for nearby Calvary Cemetery.
Riverside, which sits side-by-side with Graceland, had a few downed pine visible Monday, as well. Plunkett said Calvary was spared, suffering mostly broken branches.
Over at Greenwood Cemetery along Highway 35, the storm didn't pull any punches.
"It's like a little war zone," said Wayne Middleton, the sexton for Greenwood. Five big trees toppled, one on top of a row of older monuments, and partial trees and branches littered the site. Since Sunday, Middleton has been hauling out truckloads of tree parts. He estimated it would take another day of clean up to finish the job at the cemetery, which has 19,875 graves.
About the time Middleton is finished at Greenwood, clean-up at Graceland will be in full swing. Graceland Cemetery Board members, including Winter and her husband Randy, are volunteers. They can only care for the site when they have time off from work.
Trees need to be braced up before being chopped apart to keep them from falling on headstones underneath. Then there are the 10 downed headstones, some of which blew down a year ago. Winter said it costs $300 to put each one back up. The cemetery has more than 5,000 graves, but the budget is tight.
"Last year we got $2,600 in donations," Winter said. "We put out over $7,000."
The toppled stones and wind-blown trees are just the newest hurdle for Graceland. For more than five years, a section of the cemetery has been slipping away. It was originally deemed a slump, a geologic phenomenon that sends earth sliding down until it reaches a stable point. As such, filling in the spot would just continue the problem.
The headstones from the affected area were moved to a new site in the rear of the cemetery in 2003 as the slope continued to sink.
Two years ago, a group from the Leadership Superior/Douglas County program examined the problem with fresh eyes. A hydrologist who studied the site said the area was collapsing, not slumping. According to that prognosis, filling in the site would cure the eyesore. Due to cost and other issues, the leadership group was unable to complete the project. And the cemetery board has no money for the needed repairs.
"It just keeps getting worse and worse because donations keep getting worse," Winter said.
She is considering fundraiser options like spaghetti dinners to raise the needed dollars.
For more information on Graceland Cemetery, call Winter at (715) 392-1998.