Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Many rural cemeteries are abandoned; who will tend them?

Photo collage by The Daily Yonder
"As families pull up roots to look for opportunities elsewhere, as young people move away from their hometowns, and as elders who had time for such tasks die out, rural communities are faced with a difficult question: Who will tend the graves? Additional factors like weather, climate change, economic challenges, and the mysteries of human behavior make the story even more complicated," Donna Kallner writes for The Daily Yonder, offering "the grave news from a few rural communities."

Her first example is from Nebraska, where "The Kearney Hub reported that the tax-exempt request for Dove Hill cemetery lists as its caretaker one Miriam Brandt. Brandt died in 2012. The county doesn’t know if someone else has assumed responsibility, although someone has left plastic flowers there. The unmarked, unfenced burial ground is overgrown by tall grasses. The lettering on its one standing gravestone is illegible, likely because of cattle rubbing against it."

State laws on cemeteries vary, but Kallner, who lives in Wisconsin, writes generally: "Unless neighbors come forward to tell the county board a cemetery is neglected or abandoned, local government’s options are limited. Many people don’t know that, or don’t want to seem disrespectful to the dead by complaining. They may take on the job informally and then move on — or die themselves, taking the secret of that good deed to the grave and leaving no one behind to carry on."

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