Students give time to care for cemetery stones

Oldest markers have no family left to care for them

Adam Rollins, Staff Writer
Posted 11/1/21

On a chilly, dreary Saturday morning in Wright City, a small group of students donated their time to help care for an often forgotten part of the community, helping clean some of the oldest …

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Students give time to care for cemetery stones

Oldest markers have no family left to care for them

Posted

On a chilly, dreary Saturday morning in Wright City, a small group of students donated their time to help care for an often forgotten part of the community, helping clean some of the oldest headstones in the Wright City Cemetery on Oct. 23.

The youth were members of the student council at Wright City High School, who said part of their mission as leaders in school and in the community is to lead by example and help others. In this case, student organizer Jeronimo Lesmes arranged the cemetery cleaning after learning that the Wright City Cemetery Memorial Society needed help with the work.

“We always are looking to help the community. That’s what I love doing,” Lesmes said. “Student Council requires at least 25 hours of (community) work, but everybody likes doing more.

“We have a lot of time, and I feel we should be giving back to the people who give us what we have. Give back to the community,” he added.

Lesmes said learning about the memorial society helped open his eyes to the fact that there are volunteer groups and needs in Wright City that don’t get enough attention. To address that need, he said he and fellow student Zoë Hill are starting a nonprofit organization to connect student volunteers with organizations in the community.

“We saw that the community and school weren’t really well connected. ... Now we’re going to be aware and we’re going to be able to help a lot more,” Lesmes explained.

Other volunteer efforts the student council has done or plans to do this year include working at the upcoming trunk-or-treat event in Diekroeger Park, helping to clean Wright City’s two parks and doing a cleanup along the North Service Road.

Whitney Schuenemeyer, the faculty sponsor for student council, said she recommended doing the cemetery cleaning to help the students deepen their connection with the community.

“It’s important they see that we are so interconnected. ... Just being able to give back is very rewarding. It’s also to have a sense of place, of where you came from,” Schuenemeyer said, complimenting her students’ motivation to get involved.

“We have a really good group of leaders that want to do a lot of community service and really take that on,” she commented. “They’ve been doing most of the work of contacting people, talking to the principals about getting things set up. They’ve been going after it, and I’m just here to help.”

Marie Hollenbeck, a volunteer with the Cemetery Memorial Society, said it was encouraging to have the group of young people join society members for the cemetery marker cleaning on Saturday.

“With many of these older stones, there’s no family left in the area. It takes volunteers to take care of these markers and make sure they’re kept,” Hollenbeck said. “You know that their family would be grateful that someone, 100 years after their death, is caring for them.”

Hollenbeck said the part of the cemetery being cared for is one of the oldest, with graves from the late 1800s and early 1900s. The older markers tend to gather more moss and lichen because of the stone they’re made from, she explained.

Hollenbeck said helping clean and restore those old stones can often be uplifting.

“These are the stones that usually have the really touching inscriptions on them. When you can uncover something like that, that’s been covered for years, it’s good. ... It gets all of us in touch with those who came before.”

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