1/28/2013 3:57:00 PM Cemetery Commission: Quiet but important work Geneaology, history, families all served by group's efforts
In 2002, the Henry County Cemetery Commission held this grave marker dedication for Sgt. Christopher Long, a Revolutionary War veteran buried in Henry County.
By DARREL RADFORD email@example.com
Donna Tauber will never forget the feeling when, while searching for her ancestors in southern Henry and Rush counties, she found their final resting places overgrown to the point "where you couldn't even walk."
That's why Tauber has been dedicated to chairing the Henry County Cemetery Commission since 2001, an organization with modest means but major commitment where local cemeteries are concerned.
For more than a decade, the commission has gone quietly about its work, repairing hundreds of gravestones and making as many as 50 pioneer cemeteries look nicer.
"We've done a lot of good," Tauber said. "To me, taking care of cemeteries provides an important connection to the past. Those people may be gone, but, for that moment, at least, they are not forgotten. I feel like we've done something for that person when we make their final resting places look nicer. It gives you a chance to reflect on the people who have settled this area."
There has certainly been a lot for the five-member commission to do. The late Bud Bush, a longtime advocate for and researcher of these burial sites, catalogued 122 cemeteries in Henry County.
Over the years, there have been cleanup projects in Fall Creek, Messick, Dunreith and Greensboro, as well as New Castle. The commission spearheaded efforts to have a Catherine Winters Memorial placed in South Mound Cemetery, in honor of the 9-year-old girl who disappeared in 1913 and never was seen again.
The commission also played a key role in restoring a Henry County monument to a Revolutionary War veteran who served with George Washington. The monument, at roads 200S and 500E, serves as a reminder that these burial sites are important pieces of local history.
"Cemeteries not only represent memorial markers to those who have passed away, but can also provide us with the history of that person," Tauber said. "These gravestones can tell us their date of birth, date of death, military information and, in many cases, who their parents were and who their spouse was."
According to Tauber, a number of people visit Henry County each year, many from out of state, to do genealogy research and to visit their ancestor's resting place. She emphasized that without maintenance, these monuments can become covered with leaves and other vegetation until they disappear completely. Weather elements and wildlife also can contribute to many stones toppling over.
"Many cemeteries were first used by a church or a family who are no longer in the area," Tauber said. "About 40 known cemeteries in Henry County now exist without a trace."
In her years of leading the commission, Tauber has learned each gravestone has a story to tell.
"There was a family plot with children and by looking at the dates, you realized all those children died in the same week," Tauber said. "What those families must have gone through."
Families are foremost in mind, according to Tauber, as the commission continues its work.
"Geneaology is one of the number one hobbies in our country," Tauber said. "After people start to gather their information, they want to go see the cemetery where that person is buried. We are trying to improve that for our county for genealogical researchers."
After more than a decade, Tauber still finds her position intriguing.
"As a commission, we try to target cemeteries visible to the public. It's overwhelming at times because there is so much to do and we have very little money to do things with. But it is a very rewarding position."