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Posted on Apr 14, 2016

Let’s get together to improve cemetery

By Lisa Karstetter

Spring has sprung and with that comes the need to want to be outside doing some spring cleaning. Last week, a large team of us from work went down to do some sprucing up at the Quincy Valley Cemetery. This is something we have done for the last few years, and something I have done personally now for about 12 years. Even though I don’t have family buried there, it’s a way for me to honor those who have gone before me and those who homesteaded the Quincy Valley, where I have chosen to raise my family.
To say I was dismayed at the condition of the cemetery would be an understatement. This is not the first time, nor will it most likely be the last time, I feel this way. It seems like this has been a problem for a decade or more.
Last week, one whole side (that area closest to the arborvitaes) had not even been mowed. Some of the grass in that area was more than a foot and a half tall. A few of my co-workers even found headstones in that area that were completely overgrown with grass. The section toward the back of the cemetery (closest to tracks) looked like someone had only mowed around the perimeter but nothing else. Did the mower quit? Don’t we have a back-up plan in the event that happens?
Can anyone tell me if a grass catcher is even being used at the cemetery, because it sure doesn’t appear that way? Almost every headstone was covered in grass clippings. The clippings had then been watered or rained on and the grass laid in hardened clumps on top of the headstones. We tried to blow as many off as we could. I guess if someone doesn’t go out weekly and clean their loved ones’ graves, then you won’t be able to see the tops because of the grass clippings.
Sadly, there are many folks who have been laid to rest in the Quincy Valley Cemetery who no longer have family in the area. The reason you can tell is because those headstones are the most neglected. No one had edged around the tall headstones either, and I’m not even sure if that ever gets done unless family, friends or an occasional volunteer were to do it.
Many of the headstones have sunk or are lying at odd angles. They need to be lifted, with some sand put under them to level them out again. I’m sure this makes mowing tough for the groundskeeper.
Loved ones pay to have family buried in the Quincy Valley Cemetery with the hopes that the cemetery will be maintained to a certain standard long after they are gone. This is not happening. The only thing being done is basic mowing and watering.
So what is the solution?
This is a district cemetery, and all property owners pay taxes to have it maintained. But to what standard? What is a reasonable “standard” for a district cemetery? What is the budget for maintenance? Perhaps we are getting what we are paying for. There is so much infrastructural work that needs to be done at the cemetery to get it back up to decent standards. Do we have the funds for that?
Perhaps we need to run a special levy to do those improvements and get the headstones leveled and the ground evened. If we do run a levy, is there a long-term vision or a master plan for our cemetery? I truly believe we need a plan to see any changes, and I don’t believe we can rely on the cemetery board to do this alone. These are all questions that ran through my mind last week while out at the cemetery cleaning. And I’d like answers.
I find the best way to address something that has been a longtime problem is to start a grassroots effort to make the changes you want to see. After talking to a few other folks, we have decided to start a committee called “Friends of the Quincy Cemetery.”
We will be having our first meeting at 7 p.m. on April 18 at the Reiman-Simmons House.
I encourage all of you who have ideas about how to improve the care of our beloved cemetery to attend. Come willing to look to the future, not just complain about the past. As a community, let’s join together and make a difference for those whose voices can no longer be heard. They deserve it.

Lisa Karstetter, senior community relations and data center development manager at Yahoo, has lived in Quincy since 1990. She and her family farm in the Quincy area. She is the former executive director of the Quincy Valley Chamber of Commerce.

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