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Public welcome to see, support cemetery

FAIRMONT– Lakeside Cemetery in Fairmont is gearing up for its annual picnic, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 22. This year more than ever the Lakeside Cemetery Association would like the public to come out, see the grounds and show its support of the 150 years plus cemetery.

Brad Buhmann, president of the Lakeside Cemetery Association, said that the picnic started four years ago as a way to have people come in and see what they do and how much work goes into maintaining it. Manager Paula Bulfer said that they also use the opportunity to generate plot sales.

“That’s the only way we make money other than funerals,” she said.

A few years ago, the association revealed the new columbariums at the annual picnic and Buhmann noted that that picnic was well-attended.

This year the two are hoping for a good turnout as well. The cemetery has been a topic of discussion after a request to transfer control and operations went to the Martin County Board of Commissioners last summer. Since then the board had debated giving the cemetery special funds to help sustain operations. Ultimately, the board did grant a one time release of funds in the amount of $50,435 in April of this year.

Since word got out that the cemetery is seeking more financial help, Buhmann and Bulfer said they have received an increase in donations. They shared that one anonymous donor said they will match whatever is raised in donations from October 2023- October 2024.

“Theres a lot of people who say, ‘you’re going to make it, won’t you?’ And I say yes we are,” Bulfer said. “We’ve had good publicity.”

Bulfer has tried to stress that it’s hard to budget and know what they have to spend because they can’t anticipate what their income will be.

“If you have a month of no funerals and no plot sales, you have nothing coming in but you still have utilities, gas, mowing or snow removal,” Bulfer said.

Speaking more on the issue of plot sales and maintenance, Buhmann shared that in 1912 a family bought enough plots, six, for their whole family for $14 total. Now, with a recent burial on one the plots, a family member balked at the $500 burial fee.

“We’ve mowed and trimmed the plot for 110 years,” Buhmann pointed out. “A lot of times people don’t come back after they bury a loved one.”

In those instances, association members and volunteers still take lengths to care for the headstones by repairing them as needed and trimming around them to keep the cemetery overall looking nice.

However, there are people who will come to the cemetery looking for relatives or friends but they don’t know where they’re buried.

“We’ll assist them and Paula will give them directions,” Buhmann said.

He pointed out that the street name signs throughout the cemetery are needed for that reasons because it makes giving directions much easier. However, he also said that those are on the list to replace as some of them are so old and weathered that they’re illegible.

There are some other pieces of equipment, such as trimmers, that the association desires to replace. Yet the biggest financial burden right now is the cost of gas and oil as summer mowing season is here.

“We have a good crew of people to help mow,” Buhmann said.

In addition to Bulfer, co-manager Mark Determan has been mowing and they recently brought in another person who has been a big help. Still, there’s a lot of ground to cover, 56 acres to be exact.

“Last week I had 47 hours on just my mower and Mark was mowing also,” Bulfer said.

She said it takes 65 hours to mow the entire cemetery once and by the time she finishes one half, she’s two days behind on the other half. On her best days of mowing she’ll go through three tanks of gas in a day, which is costly.

“The unknown is hard. We could have a storm come in and a stone falls over and we have to take care of it and it takes manpower,” Buhmann said.

Another unexpected thing that hit the cemetery, and the rest of Fairmont, was Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). Buhmann said they had to pay to remove about a dozen trees.

Buhmann said that a cemetery does not qualify for many grants or other assistance and while some local communities got state grants to help with EAB removal, the cemetery slipped through the cracks.

“We’re trying to keep it afloat and we’re doing a really good job. We really are,” Buhmann said.

But again, with so many unknown expenses, financial support is required and Buhmann said that no donation is too small. He stressed the significance of the cemetery to the community.

“A lot of the founding father of Martin County are buried here. There’s so much more to a cemetery than being buried here. There’s Veterans Day and Memorial Day when the volunteers come out and place flags,” he said.

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