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Cemetery theme was not intended

By Staff | Apr 29, 2012

An alert reader might notice an unintentional editorial comment in this week’s Faribault County Register.

First, there is a story concerning area cemeteries inside our second annual Community Focus magazine, included with the paper this week.

It details some of the financial struggles local cemeteries are having with rising costs, and decreasing income.

Much like many of our own home budgets.

It is an issue many would not think about. Most of us have no clue how cemeteries operate.

We just think they should be a place to bury the deceased, and they should look like a beautiful park except with a lot of stone monuments to mow around.

How that mowing and upkeep is accomplished and paid for doesn’t usually enter our mind.

Neither does the question of who actually owns cemeteries.

Sometimes churches own them. Other times it is governmental bodies, such as townships or cities. The U.S. government owns a bunch, like Ft. Snelling in Minneapolis (where my father happens to be buried.

But, they are also commonly owned by cemetery associations. These associations are made up of the persons who have purchased plots at the cemetery.

A smart aleck like myself would point out that most of those members are dead and buried and incapable of voting or making decisions.

Turns out, a lot of people own the plots who are still alive and kicking. So, they are the true owners of these association run cemeteries.

Sue Jahnke, secretary at Riverside Cemetery in Blue Earth, says that if the original purchaser of a plot has died and there are still more lots in the family plot are still unused, then the plot ownership passes to the surviving spouse, or in some cases, the oldest surviving son.

Jahnke points out that this sometimes means that people who may not even live in the area are members of the Blue Earth Cemetery Association and may not even know it.

Most members are also probably unaware of the costs of maintaining a cemetery until they read the story in the Community Focus magazine this week.

Although, when one thinks about it, it becomes apparent that it can’t be cheap.

All that mowing and trimming and maintaining. Just the cost of gas alone would be something to consider.

Then there are all those urns.

Later this summer the cemetery will be adorned with hundreds of them. Some are paid for by loved ones for one year, some for five years, and some for eternity.

Eternity? Really?

It seems that for a one time charge of $5,000, the cemetery will take care of furnishing an urn full of flowers by a grave, water it all summer, and remove it in the fall.

This year, next year. Forever.

Forever is a long time.

Which brings us to the second part of the cemetery connection in this week’s Register.

On the front page is a story about Gary Sands uncovering the Verona Township Cemetery next door to his home south of Winnebago.

He is uncovering it because it has become buried in dirt and foliage over the past few decades.

It was abandoned at one point in time.

No one was any longer tending it, mowing it or caring for it.

Perhaps they just couldn’t afford to do it any longer. Or could not find anyone who cared enough to continue to do it.

Sound familiar?

Now, I am certainly not saying these cemeteries featured in the Community Focus are going to go broke and cease to operate or maintain their facility, but, if they do fold up shop, who would do it?

Perhaps, like the Verona Township Cemetery on the front page, no one would. And eventually it would become overgrown and forgotten.

There is the unintentional editorial comment.

We don’t really think the two Riverside cemeteries, one in Blue Earth and one in Winnebago, are going to become abandoned.

The fact that we have a story about one that was, the same week as the other story, is strictly coincidental.

But, if it gives our readers cause for thought, and perhaps spurs them on to make a donation to their local cemetery, that would just be an added benefit to our reporting.

Oh yes. The cartoon on this page, showing the Vikings football stadium deal ‘coming back from the dead,’ is also a purely unintentional continuation of our cemetery theme.