Thanks for helping recovery from tornado

As all of you are aware, Nov. 5 of last year, Greenlawn Cemetery was hit by a very destructive tornado for the second time in 15 years. This tornado, however, changed the landscape of the cemetery by damaging or felling more than 50 trees, damaging over 250 markers, the roof (18 months old) and windows of the Barnes Chapel and the roof on the King maintenance building.

We encourage you to take 10 minutes to look at the damage on a slide show on our website, On the opening tab, look for 2017 storm damage update, then click on Storm Damage. Both the east and west yard of the cemetery were damaged, the west being the worst hit.

The staff, trustees and volunteers were obviously inundated — the entire cemetery was inaccessible, including the office, which was without electricity for several days. The outpouring of help from individuals and groups within the community was overwhelming. Men and women appeared with chain saws, women dropped off food and organizations and businesses delivered water and pizza to volunteers helping to clean up; there were offers of flatbed trailers and extra tractors to remove debris; businesses offered their employees to come for a day to help; students and teachers from Sentinel Vocational Center worked several days; Ron Shank Excavating of Tiffin and Schreiner Tree Services LLC of New Riegel arrived with equipment and helped to remove trees at no charge, without being asked!

In the ensuing chaos, it was impossible to obtain the names of all who assisted with the cleanup. We wish to offer a sincere thank you to all of you. In our current society, we hear predominantly of the bad things that people do, but we have seen firsthand the enormous amount of goodness in people. We are forever indebted to all of those who helped, even in the smallest way and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Most of the debris now is gone, but our staff estimates it will be over a year until all trees are removed and the cleanup completed. Professionals will remove trees that could potentially damage markers if not done correctly. They also will remove the large root balls that were raised up by the tornado and the stumps. We were extremely pleased when our local Rotary Club stepped forward and planted 90 trees in the cemetery on Earth Day. A grateful thank you goes to the Rotary Club members for helping to preserve the beauty of the cemetery for generations to come.

Once the damaged trees are removed, we will begin to consider which markers we can repair. The markers are the responsibility of the families, but with the cemetery dating from the 1850s, finding the whereabouts of any family willing to pay for repair or replacement is next to impossible. The cemetery will do minor repairs, when possible. We hope to research funding for the Civil War memorials and may consider a fundraiser to create a fund for repairs in the future.

Insurance has paid for all damage to the buildings except for the stained-glass windows in the chapel. The location of the original stained-glass windows of the chapel is unknown and those openings have been covered with plexiglass for many years — so insurance covered plain glass only. Once cemetery cleanup is totally done, we will again address the chapel restoration, possibly having a fundraiser for replacement stained glass windows and the interior. Insurance does not cover the tree removal and because Greenlawn Cemetery Association is a non-profit 501 (C) 13 organization, we remain dependent on contributions to help us maintain the grounds.

The trustees agree we will not allow the storm damage setback to interfere with our dedication to continue our tradition of a well-maintained cemetery. We will continue to improve and enhance the grounds. And again, a sincere thank you to any and all who helped Greenlawn in any way.

The Trustees of Greenlawn Cemetery Association,