Getting to know local government Sexton and cemetery board manage 10,000 graves

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There are 10,000 graves in the Guttenberg city cemetery and enough space for approximately 30 more years of burials. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

Editor’s note: This story is one in an ongoing series of features highlighting city boards and committees to educate readers about the workings of local government. 

The 10-acre Guttenberg City Cemetery is the final resting place of approximately 10,000 former residents. These gravesites, along with the estimated existing space for another 2,750, are maintained by sexton Paul Kregel and a seven-member board with two advisors. The board meets once or twice per year in order to maintain a clean, well-kept cemetery of which the community can be proud.

“Those on the board have various tenure from one year to up to 30 years. They are a diverse group of individuals from farmers, contractors, teachers and administrators,” said Kregel. Board members include Steve Bahls, Ed Rodenberg, Pat Kuempel, Marie Torrey, Larry Borcherding, Janice Andregg and Fran Leeman. They are appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council. Each member commits to a three-year term. City council member Fred Schaub and Bill Allyn of Tuecke-Allyn Funeral Home advise the volunteer board. 

As sexton, Kregel’s job is to oversee the general maintenance of the grounds, such as spreading grass seed, tree removal, removal of flowers and putting up flags. “Miller Lawn Care does a great job with the mowing,” noted Kregel. He prepares for burials by marking out the grave area, contacting the gravedigger, helping vault personnel, and directing traffic as needed. “I grew up helping my parents take care of the cemetery, and when the position became available I applied,” Kregel told The Press. He’s been acting sexton, a paid position, for six years. 

Kregel also monitors the graves of soldiers and reports those graves annually to Clayton County. He meets with families who would like to purchase grave spaces and creates the appropriate paperwork. “On average, when people get into their fifties and sixties they start thinking about it,” Kregel explained. The cemetery allows two burials per gravesite; one traditional and one cremation or two cremation. 

Prices vary depending on whether the gravesite is in the regular or Miller addition of the cemetery. “The Miller addition is on the south side of the cemetery. It starts about halfway down the blacktop, and all the headstones in that area are flat,” said board president Pat Kuempel, who has served on the cemetery board for the last 10 years. A stipulation of the city’s purchase of the Miller property required that all headstones in that area be flat. As a result, sales have been fewer in that section, so prices are lower.

Including in the price of each gravesite is a $75 perpetual care fee, which is invested into a separate fund to earn interest. The interest is deposited into the cemetery account to help cover the cost of general maintenance. 

Graves in the Guttenberg City Cemetery can be researched online at www.findagrave.com/cemetery/94972. However, just 3,478 of the 10,000 graves have been documented with 90 percent of those photographed. For those who cannot find their relative in the online database, the sexton can help. He can be reached at 252-2303 or by emailing pjkregel@alpinecom.net.

In the near future, the cemetery board will begin marking out a new section of the cemetery for gravesite purchase. “There should be enough room left for about 30 years,” said Kregel, estimating the remaining space in the cemetery.

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