Friday, September 16, 2011

Laying Damaged and Broken

Wind can be a powerful force, and the storm of the July 4th weekend showed our town just that. All things were not match for its power, from wood, to metal, and even stone. Our fair cemetery was not spared from its wrath, and sustained a significant amount of damage. The wind bend our mighty flag pole, ripped up our trees, and toppled headstones. All in all 30 headstones were toppled, 26 of those in the oldest section of the cemetery. Many have asked what is to be done by the city to repair the headstones, and the truth is, we really didn't know ourselves. While the cemetery is the cities property, the headstones belong to its residents and their families. Initially, we felt that we would leave it up to the families of those fallen headstones to make the proper repairs. However, as we found out, it was difficult to find the family of some of Oberlin's first residents, and even if they knew, would they care to front the cost? Luckily, Mr. Dale Waldo, a monument company owner volunteered to come speak with us about the possibility of fixing the stones at a discount price since he grew up in Oberlin. After finding out prices, around $2500 total, we decided that we could front the costs, and try to raise money later to pay for the fixes. However, it was decided that we should first attempt to fix a few of the headstones ourselves. Gary Zodrow was gracious enough to loan us his time and tools to show us the proper way to reset a headstone, and we found it to be easier than expected. Over the course of a week, we had fixed, replaced and repaired all of the headstones ourselves at a very minimal cost.

While the city did take care of the repairs this time, I have urged the city to not make this a common occurance. It is only a matter of time until this happens again, and maybe on a large scale. So, I will reiterate, the city will not be repairing headstones that are damaged by natural causes. We simply cannot front the costs that are required to properly repair these historical monuments. However, there is one thing that I am going to urge the city council to do. I intent to ask the council to set aside around $1000 dollars each year for the restoration of headstones within the cemetery. We will decide which headstones are in the most dire need of repair, and have those stones repaired by a professional. By doing this, we can assure that our older headstones will not be forgotten and left to lay broken on the ground. I ask that when next years budgeting comes around in June that you speak with council members to assure them this is the correct direction to head in.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bringing our Cemetery to the Digital Age

For those of you who have visited our fair cemetery, you have likely encountered our directory. The directory, believed to have been built in the 1950s, has served its cemetery well for all of those years, helping visitors find their loved ones once more. However, time and weather have not been kind to our directory. The cemetery it was built to serve has grown to the point there is no longer room on the directory board for new residents, and water leaks make the paper copies illegible.

While searching for a better replacement, I came across Windy Prairie Systems, a company out of Lincoln, NE that specializes in directories, the most interesting of which is a digital touch-screen directory. The directory consists of an all weather touch-screen computer mounted on a steel pedestal mount. But what is really amazing about this directory is the easy to use software and the add-on features. Navigating the directory is extremely simple and can be operated by anyone, even those who have no experience with computers. Simply follow the screen and voice instructions, type in the first four letters of the resident you are searching for, and you are good to go. Once the resident is chosen, the location, the date of birth, and the death date are shown along with an interactive map to help the searching find their search-ee.

But the features do not end there. If a family of a loved one so chooses, they can celebrate their life by purchasing a virtual memorial. With a virtual memorial, things such as photos, obituaries, audio, and videos can be added to the resident's page for all visitors to see. No longer is a cemetery just a place to view headstones, but a way to reconnect with those who are lost to us.

However, a new directory is not cheap whichever direction we choose to go. The cemetery is a service to the community it serves and in no way self-sufficient. This makes proper maintenance and changes difficult. The directory's purpose is to help serve the community and we are who will help raise these funds. We are currently looking for donations of all kinds, including memorials, private donations, and group donations. All donations will be honored on a screen page of the directory. Rotary has already begun some fundraising for the directory, but we are still a long way off from our goal. If you feel like making a donation, please visit the city office. It is time to begin bringing our beloved Oberlin into the 21st century and a new digital directory is a great step towards this goal. Thank you and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask me about this issue or anything else involved with my occupation.


Hello and welcome to The Life of a Cemetery blog! My name is Jeremy Tally and I am the sexton at the Oberlin Cemetery in Oberlin, KS. The cemetery lies on 30 acres of the northeast corner of town and is currently the last resting place of around 4,300 residents. It has been an honor and a pleasure of mine to take care of such a beautiful cemetery and now I want to share that experience with readers while also helping to share the goings-on of our cemetery. Few people know the thought and care needed to be a good sexton, but hopefully this blog will give some insight into my daily workload.