What’s In Store for Calvary Cemetery?
In my last letter to the editor, I outlined how Douglas City Manager Curtis Shook (and all city mangers before him) has not done anything to improve Calvary Cemetery.
But first I must apologize for an error in my last letter. I inadvertently slipped in a paragraph that belongs to a forthcoming editorial. The paragraph stated that Shook asked for a price hike in cemetery fees, which wasn’t the case. A price hike was scheduled for 2012 but the city council put a freeze on it.
Now, for the most part, the cemetery doesn’t look so bad thanks to one group: the Cemetery Committee that was composed mostly of elderly ladies who had great concern for the cemetery.
The group began in 1978 when a big freeze killed every single Italian Cypress tree at the cemetery, which were over 1000 trees. For months, they were ignored by then Mayor Ben Williams and the Council. Not only was it a depressing sight, it was a dangerous place to walk and a horrendous fire hazard.
In an act of desperation, a group of old ladies appointed Jean Karger to petition the Mayor and City Council to form a Cemetery Committee. Jean Karger’s husband, Art Karger, was once Mayor of Douglas.
With the formation of the Cemetery Committee, the group sent out bids to remove the dead trees. But then they were immediately censored by the Mayor and Council for “incorrect procedure.”
But that soon cleared and the committee had the trees removed and they laboriously solicited donations to buy new trees. It is interesting to note that the City has not planted one tree in Calvary Cemetery since 1978. It was all done by the cemetery committee and through private donations.
The real problem goes back to the late 1970s when the City began hiring city managers. Since city managers have assumed control of the cemetery, they have made it plain they have no plans on being buried there, and as a result, they don’t care about what happens with the cemetery.
The only interest they have in the cemetery is in how much money they can take out of it. Yet all you hear from them is how much the cemetery is costing the city. But you never hear them complain about Parks and Recreation or the Country Club.
This is a word of caution. If the people of Douglas do nothing to correct the problems at the cemetery, I can assure you that the Calvary Cemetery will soon look like the Curtis Cemetery that’s west of the cemetery.
The people of Douglas have two choices. They can either sit back and do nothing about the cemetery and watch it turn into a wasteland or they can contact their council representative and demand that Johnny Chavez, a park’s employee, who was put in charge of the cemetery by Shook, be sent back to Parks and Recreation. His job description is not the same as a cemetery foreman or leadman. It will only be a matter of time before serious mistakes are made. Mistakes that will pale in comparison to high burial costs and dying trees.
Mark my words!