Association for Gravestone Studies Honors Work in Oregon’s Cemeteries
The Association for Gravestone Studies’ prestigious Oakley Certificate of Merit will be awarded to two Oregon historic cemetery associations and one individual during the association’s annual conference at Willamette University on Saturday, June 22 at the annual banquet. Receiving the awards will be the Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery, Luper Cemetery, Inc. and Dirk Siedlecki, a commissioner on the Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries and president of the Friends of Jacksonville Cemetery.
The Oakley Award is presented to individuals and groups that have helped to advance the mission of the Association. Founded in 1977, the Association for Gravestone Studies fosters the appreciation of the cultural significance of gravestones of all periods and styles and burying grounds through study and preservation.
The Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery is a volunteer organization in Portland. The group was created in 2000 by community volunteers after a rash of vandalism at the cemetery. It is dedicated to education, preservation and restoration for the area’s oldest cemetery and the largest of 14 pioneer cemeteries managed by Metro regional government. A core leadership team coordinates more than 400 volunteers who annually give over 3,000 hours of service. The Friends collaborate with other community groups to preserve the gravemarkers and the cemetery grounds. They also collect the stories of the cemetery residents.
Luper Cemetery is an historic pioneer cemetery located in a remote setting in Lane County in the middle of agricultural fields. Like many rural cemeteries, it was subject to vandalism, degradation by weather and extreme neglect. A small group of volunteers came together in the spring of 2009 to change that. They began a cleanup and researched at the historical society and tax department to learn more about the cemetery’s history. They were almost finished with the cleanup in October 2009 when vandals caused tremendous damage. Faced now with 90 percent of the headstones needing some level of restoration and no money, the Luper group found new financial, physical and technical assistance from Musgrove Family Mortuary, Roberts Surveying, the Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries, Donovan and Associates, and dozens of individuals. The vandals were caught and due to Oregon’s strong vandalism laws have paid restitution. In four years the Luper Cemetery volunteers have changed the long-neglected cemetery from a forgotten place to a well-maintained cemetery.
Dirk Siedlecki is serving his second term on the Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries. His willingness to reach out and help others has moved the work of the commission forward. Siedlecki has offered many services in his region. He brought together people working with Southern Oregon historic cemeteries for regular informal meetings. At the meetings they share information and gather data about the needs of the cemeteries. Siedlecki trains volunteers in his region and volunteers his time to repair markers in small private cemeteries. He has drafted several of the commission’s educational Heritage Bulletins and position papers. Siedlecki’s work at the Jacksonville Cemetery is a model of care and community building. As president of the Friends of Jacksonville Cemetery he has helped establish a regular maintenance schedule, a records management program, and tours and programs at the cemetery. The result is a dedicated volunteer organization and strong community support.
Learn more about the Association for Gravestone Studies. Plan to attend its 36th annual conference June 18-23 at Willamette University in Salem.