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November 11, 1999
Cemeteries' Demise dismays Boone County residents

Some say township trustees neglect the sacred ground in at least 20
cemeteries in Boone County

JENNIFER DUKES LEE, Register's Ames Bureau

Boone, Ia. -- A slice of Boone County history hides behind pine trees,
overgrown weeds and a segment of rusted fence.

On top of a hill overlooking the Des Moines River valley is a cemetery
where the last grave was dug 60 years ago, Judy Patterson said the
cemetery has been neglected since.

"I have no relatives out here myself, but I think it's a damn crime,"
said Patterson, 63.

She and other Boone-area residents whose ancestors are buried in rural
cemeteries say township trustees are neglecting sacred ground. The
trustees manage cemeteries not owned by families, churches, or

The residents say at least 20 trustee-owned cemeteries in Boone County
are in disrepair. Weeds have swallowed headstones. Dead trees have
fallen onto graves. An access road to one cemetery is long gone,
leaving the site unknown to all but a few loved ones.

Neglect plagues rural cemeteries across the state, said Pat Shaw,
president of the State Association for the Preservation of Iowa

Boone County residents push for cemetery upkeep

(continued from page 1M)

The lack of care means many veterans who fought in the Civil War or
World Wars will be ignored or forgotten on Veterans Day today.
Veterans were often buried in family plots instead of military
cemeteries, Shaw said.

"That's a very important part of our heritage, and it's a dishonor to
allow those graves to remain in such a state," Shaw said.

In Boone, the descendants want the trustees to take better care of the
cemeteries or have the county supervisors take over.

Trustees say maintaining cemeteries is hard work, partly because many
of them have poor access roads.

"We're doing the best we can," said Art Sturtz, chairman of the Dodge
Township Trustees.

A cemetery in Dodge Township has been a sore spot with descendants who
returned to Boone last summer for a family reunion. Relatives who
visited the Leininger Cemetery, on a gravel road northeast of Boone,
were dismayed to find 6-foot-tall weeds, said Boone resident Ed Mondt,
a descendant of the Leininger family.

The trustees pay Dean Pfrimmer and his son, Dale, of Boone, $690 a
month in taxpayer money to take care of Leininger Cemetery and Mineral
Ridge Cemetery, a much larger burial site still in use.

The Pfrimmers stopped mowing the grass at Leininger about a year ago
because of difficulties getting into the cemetery, which is on a hill.

According to county records, the Pfrimmers still received the full
monthly payment.

Sturtz defended the decision. He said the Leininger Cemetery job is a
fraction of the work required at Mineral Ridge, and full pay was

The caretakers continued to mow Mineral Ridge regularly, and it
appeared well-manicured this week. "We just weren't able to take care
of Leininger," Dean Pfrimmer said. "If they blame it onto me ... they
can take care of their own cemeteries."

The controversy at Leininger is complicated. County officials say
their records show the land is under family ownership, and that means
relatives technically should be maintaining the grounds. Relatives
insist they do not own the land.

In the meantime, the trustees have agreed to pay the caretaker bill.

Late last month, the Pfrimmers mowed the grass after county crews built
a dirt access road to Leininger Cemetery.

"We took care of it immediately," said Donovan Olson, chairman of the
Boone County Board of Supervisors.

Descendants asked the board to declare the cemetery a pioneer cemetery.
Under state law, the board could then create a commission to assume
management of the cemeteries in the county.

Olson said the trustee system works well enough for now.

"We have enough to do as supervisors without getting into managing
cemeteries," he said.

Brushing away leaves from an 80-year-old gravestone, Patterson said the
cemeteries deserve more respect.

"This is somebody's family," she said.


Pictured with the story is the Leininger Cemetery with this caption: Boone-area residents claim that the county neglects rural cemeteries. Ed Mondt, Boone, above, has family buried in Leininger Cemetery, northeast of Boone.

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