News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
A home for Odd Fellows
May 28, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck
The historic cemetery grounds are worth taking care of in the public sphere
Something was missing from Riverton's Memorial Day ceremonies Monday.
It's now been a couple of years since the colorful, unique observance at the Odd Fellows Cemetery on Riverview Road took place. Its absence leaves a void.
For decades the cemetery languished in neglect, deteriorating more each day, eventually becoming an eyesore.
More than that, it was an embarrassment. The property has great historic significance for Riverton. It was the city's first cemetery.
So a local group of veterans decided to do something about it. They cleaned the place up. They made plans and raised money. They laid out a good-looking grid of military crosses as the focal point of the cemetery. They spruced up the grave sites and learned more about who was buried there.
They volunteered hundreds of hours. They made the cemetery their own. They took pride in their project, and they shared their work with the public in an annual Memorial Day ceremony separate and distinct from the annual rites at Mountain View Cemetery. It was a fine piece of civic service, much needed and much appreciated.
But there was a problem. Many of the veterans who started the renovation of Odd Fellows Cemetery were World War II vintage. Many of them have passed from this life. Those who remain no longer have the energy, the desire and the manpower to keep doing what they were doing.
They came to the City of Riverton and the Mountain View Cemetery District with a suggestion. How about adding the Odd Fellows Cemetery grounds to the cemetery district, which now takes care of Mountain View Cemetery with an annul tax levy to pay the way. The cemetery district could take on the responsibility of maintaining Odd Fellows Cemetery from the physical standpoint, leaving the veterans to coordinate the annual ceremonies for Memorial Day and perhaps other occasions from time to time.
The city and cemetery district said no at the time. Now that the historic old site has started going to seed again, perhaps the issue could be revisited.
Odd Fellows Cemetery is a much smaller piece of property than Mountain View. It will never need to acquire more space for expansion, as Mountain View Cemetery regularly, and necessarily, does.
The cemetery district has an annual funding source and an elected board of directors to ensure public accountability. The district does an outstanding job of upkeep at beautiful Mountain View Cemetery. Appreciators of the Odd Fellows Cemetery would rest assured that it would be well taken care of and would continue to exist as a valued piece of property and local history.
Years ago, the Odd Fellows Cemetery got a priceless rebirth from its volunteer team. Now it needs a permanent home. We hope the cemetery powers that be can give this another look.