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Daily Democrat
January 31, 2008

Pioneer Cemetery Association announces awards

Terry Altheide/Pioneer Cemetery Association

The Lee County Pioneer Cemetery Association recently held its fifth annual banquet at Ogo's Restaurant in Montrose. Fifty-two people attended the event.

Keynote speaker for the evening was Mike Foley of Montrose. Mr. Foley spoke on his research of the Conlee Farm Cemetery, also known as Zarahelma Cemetery. The area around where the graveyard is located was used as a camping site by the Mormons on their journey west to Utah. Many of those who crossed the Mississippi died while they rested at the temporary settlement and were buried at the site. Foley is attempting to locate many of the graves that were once there by witching or dowsing the area. Many Mormon pioneers returned over the years and disinterred their loved ones and took the remains - as well as many of the stones - back to Salt Lake City. The cemetery is located in the woods near the junction of Highways 218 and 61 near Montrose hill.

The 2007 recipient of the Donald Wagner Memorial Award was Fran Sprunger of Keokuk. Mrs. Sprunger has been involved in genealogical research for many years and is interested in Lee County history.

The award is given in honor of local historian and association member Donald Wagner who passed away in 2004. It's presented to individuals who contribute to the preservation of some type of Lee County history. Past recipients include Erma DeRosear of Donnellson who received the award in 2004; Jerry Sloat of Ft. Madison in 2005 and Betty Haas of Ft. Madison in 2006.

Recipients of this year's “Spirit of Our Pioneer Patriots Award” was Beryl Roberts of Keokuk and the Vietnam Veterans of America based in Ft. Madison. Roberts is a World War II army veteran who was held as a P.O.W. by the Germans for 18 months. The Vietnam veterans of America is an organization that helps all veterans - no matter the era in which a veteran may have served - with whatever needs an individual may have. The award is given to individuals or organizations that served in the military or who help honor veterans. The cemetery association created the award to honor and remember the many 19th century veterans who lie in pioneer cemeteries, many of which are shamefully abandoned or neglected.

Certificates of appreciation were given to association youth members or other youth who have helped the cemetery group in 2007. Those receiving certificates were Rachel Kempker, Daniel and Tommy Allen, Megan Irwin, Ashland Westfall, Becka Egley, Gage, Cassidy and Dorian Stice.

The association will meet again on March 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the Fort Madison Bank & Trust, located at Avenue G and 7th Street.

For further information call Terry Altheide at 524-8772; Joyce Cowles at 372-4743; Susan Alarie at 838-2870; Karen Kester at 372-2867 or Bob and Laverna Moore at 372-6064.

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