Long live the cemetery

Volunteer efforts at the Hope Cemetery prove that burial grounds can be ‘living places’

By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Reader Staff

In May, the Hope Cemetery puts on a show.

Thanks to volunteer clean-up efforts, the freshly-pruned lilacs are able to thrive. With undergrowth now tamed, some hidden headstones are now revealed; the bush, once a small tribute to a loved one, now grown into a centerpiece for the surrounding burial sites.

The week before Memorial Day, there are flower pots with American flags dotting the green hillside. Young native plants — roses, elderberries, syringa — flourish in their wire encasements, protected from resident whitetail and poised to line the revived pathways amid the graves.

Credit for the ongoing efforts to keep the area in tip-top condition can be given largely to Friends of the Hope Cemetery, a nonprofit volunteer group led by Chairman Brent Lockwood, who took the helm after the passing of his father-in-law Fran Schuck.

Schuck and a core group of Hopeites — the Butlers, Rameys, Dreisbachs, Dunns and many more — resurrected the defunct group in 1998 and began brainstorming ways to ensure future residents could secure their final resting place in the rapidly filling cemetery.

“There aren’t very many locations left to bury anybody,” Lockwood said. “[Schuck] was realizing that the cemetery, ironically, was going to die, and we needed some way to keep it going besides just taking care of what was already here.”

Thus, the idea for the Hope Cemetery Columbaria Park was born. Carved into what was once an impassible, overgrown hillside is now a rocked pathway and state-of-the-art columbarium — a concrete structure holding niches in which the departeds’ ashes can be stored. Further along the walkway is a memorial wall, featuring a plaque for Friends of Hope Cemetery and plenty of open space for more dedications.

Susan Howard and Brent Lockwood of the Friends of the Hope Cemetery visit the Columbaria Park on May 23. Photo by Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey.

Facing the cemetery on the downward-sloping side, Lockwood said he reads the hillside like a book — completed on the left, and slowly seeing improvements as it progresses to the right. He has visions of additional parking, another access point, a second columbarium and more.

“For those that are unfamiliar with it, it’s hard to see an idea,” Lockwood said. “But, as it goes along, that idea becomes more and more visible.”

The improvements, from visual to practical, are all in an effort to encourage people to enjoy the cemetery for themselves.

“We would always make a ceremony of coming up to the cemetery and remembering,” recalled Susan Howard, also an integral member of the Friends nonprofit. 

“The whole idea of going to the cemetery is becoming semi-obsolete,” she continued. “Hopefully this is an easy way for [young people] to connect.”

Lockwood said he recently spent some time in Germany and made an effort to tour cemeteries there. Seeing the vital role those places play in everyday life reaffirmed his dedication to making sure the Hope Cemetery will continue to thrive long after he takes his own place on the green hillside — looking out on one of Lake Pend Oreille’s best views for all eternity.

“There’s a playground next to every cemetery,” he said of his travels in Germany. “They’re living places. Cemeteries aren’t dying places — they’re living places, as long as there’s someone to put life into them.”

To learn more about ongoing volunteer opportunities at the Hope Cemetery, reach Brent Lockwood at [email protected] or 208-290-6892. For information about purchasing a columbarium niche or memorial wall plaque, call 208-255-5333 or email [email protected].

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