The Cedaredge Cemetery is observing its 110th year during September as the treasured institution serves its public, preserves the community's heritage, and protects a community trust in a way that no other institution can.
The administrations of town government and demographics of the community may change over time, but the mission of stewardship that directors of the Cedaredge Cemetery District undertake does not change.
That duty today belongs to the cemetery district's three directors: Leroy Black, Mike Street and Kristen Green.
They, along with grounds superintendent Brett Junus, maintain the peaceful, meticulously groomed park setting and carry out the duties of service and ceremony the valley's families rely on as a sacred trust.
Cemetery records from 110 years ago that are preserved as part of the institution's historical record state that Alta Leona Frost, a 26-year-old wife and mother, was buried in September 1906, the first new burial in the present Cedaredge Cemetery. The cemetery's 110th year is dated from that burial.
But, prior to that there had been another cemetery serving Cedaredge. An early newspaper account of the Cedaredge Cemetery's founding states, "A mile north of [the] settlement on what is now Ken Grant's corner, early settlers started a cemetery in the yard of the Methodist Church. The building was constructed around 1890." Ken Grant's corner is in the area where the Cedaredge water tanks are now located north of town along Highway 65, directors explained.
The Methodist Church was eventually removed and, "In 1905 the town council appointed a group of men to choose a new cemetery site . . . They selected a flat hilltop about half a mile southeast of Cedaredge." A cemetery association was formed in 1906.
As the new cemetery was established, a report from the time states, "Ten or 12 graves were moved from the first cemetery to the new location that had been plotted and laid out."
The actual number of graves moved to the new cemetery varies in the early accounts. Another account states, "While the Methodist Church north of Cedaredge was being used for a church home, about 20 people were laid to rest in the churchyard."
And, another reported, "The old cemetery has been discontinued and as no deeds were ever given for lots removal is ordered. About 20 bodies remain to be moved."
Today as the Cedaredge Cemetery marks its 110th year of trust and service to the community, it is governed by an special taxing district with three directors appointed to three-year terms by the county commissioners.
The 10-acre hilltop institution is funded with a district mill levy and with fees charged for lot sales and funeral services. Tax revenues are about $50,000 per year, down from $65,000 three years ago, directors said.
Annual budgets run in the range of $75,000 per year and there is a capital improvements plan that guides available expenditures.
The number of burials annually since 1997 has ranged between 26 and 58. There are currently over 3,000 burials including those interred in the columbarium, directors said. The first inurnment in the columbarium was in June of 2003, according to cemetery records.
Over the years many improvements and additions to the hilltop cemetery have been made. Of special pride to the staff is the Veterans Garden that was established in 2010, with the help and donations of many community members. The garden is a tribute to the 453 military veterans buried in the cemetery. Veteran burials are a particular point of pride and emotion for the directors and staff.
There are 200 casket American flags that have been donated to the cemetery, each one with a veteran's name. They line the main entry on special occasions. Members of the Rebekah Lodge place small American flags at the grave sites of the 453 veterans every Memorial Day, directors told the DCI. Directors extend thanks to Daniel Carter, Judeane Carter and Pastor Bob Hillyer of the Assembly of God Church for making the protective pouches for individual storage of the flags when not in use. They also offer special thanks to all of the donors without whom the Veterans' Garden would not have been possible.
Another prized improvement to the cemetery is the stately gazebo with its accompanying white picket fence and archway entrance that came about from the efforts of a local Boy Scout earning his Eagle Badge.
On the occasion of the cemetery's 110th anniversary, the institution is moving in the direction of a 200th anniversary looking forward with a computerization and digitization of records and additional improvements. The directors and staff also offer their special thanks to the following individuals, businesses, and organizations that have helped with improvements and support:
• Thanks to the Cedaredge Tree Board and Jim Leser who donated 36 trees that helped landscape the north slope. The trees include crab apple, ash, eastern red bud and maple.
• Special thanks to Delta County Commissioner Bruce Hovde for his special help.
• Thanks to cemetery grounds keeper Brett Junus who put in a lot of work on the stone wall revetments along the terrace on the north facing slope.
• Thanks to Water jets West and John Story, owner, for help on the new veterans board being developed in the directory room.
• Thanks to Tim Key, artist, for his sculpture of the Soldier's Battlefield Cross monument and military service honor in the Veteran's Garden.
• Thanks to C&R Kustom Powder Koting for powder coating the veterans board that will be part of the veterans display and directory at the cemetery.