Big change at cemetery, above ground headstones to be allowed in new area

by Nick Wognum

With hopes of cutting down on clutter, the Ely city council passed a motion Tuesday night to allow above ground headstones in the newest section of the cemetery.<BR><BR>Appearing before the council were Dorene Steklasa and Paul DeWeese from the Cemetery Committee.<BR><BR>“We are here to request a major change, to allow above ground headstones in the new section,” said Steklasa. “Even though some get toppled over in the old section you only see a few plastic containers or flower holders.<BR><BR>“In the newer section we have one site where there are three cans and a beer bottle,” said Steklasa. “People are erecting their own monuments.”<BR><BR>She said the different rules for each area provides for a lack of unification and is aesthetically unpleasing.<BR><BR>“Some have two to three hanging baskets and a plastic statute. We feel if above ground markers are allowed, people would police themselves and clean the place up and some of those things would disappear. If you have something classy in front of you, you tend not to junk it up,” said Steklasa.<BR><BR>She said the original rule was put in when Father Mihelcic donated the land to the city with the stipulation that no above ground headstones be allowed.<BR><BR>“He wanted the money to go the church, not into the cemetery,” said Steklasa. “He’s been dead 24 years and he certainly has a large enough headstone.”<BR><BR>Steklasa said the change would not affect grounds maintenance.<BR><BR>Mayor Frank Salerno questioned if the committee was also asking to ban certain flower arrangements.<BR><BR>“We are the only cemetery around that allows plastic ornamentation, almost all other cemeteries allow only fresh flowers,” said Steklasa. “We would like people to pick up artificial flowers after June 15 because they blow all over the cemetery but we will come to you for approval for any changes in that area.” <BR><BR>DeWeese said the proliferation of ornamental wrought iron has changed the look of the cemetery. <BR><BR>“I think as above ground markers are allowed, the wrought iron will disappear,” said DeWeese.<BR><BR>The motion to approve the change passed 6-0 with council member Mike Hillman absent.