Volunteers Repairing Veterans Graves At Mount Hope Cemetery
By Chris Collins
Twelve markers over veterans graves at Mount Hope Cemetery were removed last week with the hope that they'll be repaired and returned to their places by Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
The markers have been sent to Memorial Monuments at Meridian, Idaho, where a new base will be poured and the stone reset.
The volunteer effort to repair the stones marking veterans graves at the city-owned Mount Hope Cemetery has been spearheaded by Dennis Teskey, of Teskey Inc., the parent company of Gray's West and Co. and Stone Tributes, which he operates with his wife, Darlene.
Dennis Teskey says he became involved after community members expressed their dismay about the leaning headstones and sunken, uneven ground in the veterans section of Mount Hope at a City Council meeting two years ago.
That's when Joyce Bornstedt, who is the city's cemetery manager, asked the Teskeys for help.
Dennis Teskey says his eagerness to work on the project wasn't completely altruistic. He saw the effort as a way not only of making a worthy contribution to his community, but also to gain positive recognition for his new business, Stone Tributes, a headstone design and sales venture.
Teskey also serves on the board of the Baker City Rotary Club and he happened to mention at one of the group's meetings that he had agreed to help the city improve the cemetery's veterans section.
"One of the guys said 'that's something we should be involved with,' " Teskey recalled.
After hearing that comment, he took the idea to his fellow Rotary Club board members, and Rotarians signed up to help.
Last year a group met for a work day and repaired 30 markers. On Wednesday (Oct. 9) of last week, 51 markers were worked on, including the 12 that were pulled for concrete repair.
"There are at least another 50 left," Teskey said Tuesday. "Within the next two years I'd say we'd get it."
Teskey and three of his employees joined the Rotary Club volunteers for the latest effort.
Teskey said his employees will return the 12 markers to their proper places once the concrete work is completed and the markers are sent back from Idaho, which is expected to take three weeks.
While volunteer labor is all that's required to make some of the repairs, the Teskeys are paying the initial $87-per-marker cost for the concrete work.
The city has applied for a Leo Adler Grant to help pay those expenses. The application deadline was Oct. 1 and no word has been received of whether the grant application was successful, Bornstedt said.
Britt Sand and Gravel also is contributing to the effort by providing the packing material to reset and straighten the markers.
Bornstedt said the city is asking for $25,000 to fund the project.
Another part of maintaining the site required fencing improvements. The Adler Foundation awarded a $6,200 matching grant to pay for that work. The match came from adjacent property owner Mardell Ebell and veterans organizations, Bornstedt said.
So far, about $10,000 has been spent to replace 1,650 feet of fencing on the cemetery's south side and to install 250 feet of wrought-iron fencing along the southwestern edge in front of the veterans section, she added.
The remaining $2,500 should be enough to replace about another 1,000 feet of fencing north and east of the cemetery office.
"It certainly is primarily a volunteer effort," Bornstedt said of the work in the veterans section. "Our city policies dictate we don't do headstone renovations, but we felt it was important we participate in trying to honor our war veterans in a proper manner."
In addition to coordinating the fencing portion of the project and fundraising efforts, Bornstedt said she also has directed the maintenance contractor at the cemetery to repair sunken graves.
Grass Master of La Grande will pull the grass back and fill and compact graves as needed before resodding the areas when the weather warms in the spring.