Our cemeteries are our history; honor our past

Guest commentary

By Ross Rowley

Fortuna

The state of vandalism performed at the Rohnerville cemeteries on Sunday, Oct. 30 is extremely sad. There really isn't another word for it. Never mind that the perpetrators acted in such a random manner, taking out their inebriated aggressions on families completely unknown to them. And, never mind the fact that thousands of dollars worth of damage was inflicted on local family's memorials for loved ones. Now would be a good time for everyone with family members resting in the local cemeteries to visit and check up on the condition of the gravesites.

It has been stated that old cemeteries are markers of human history. They link us to family we never knew and tell us a great deal about ourselves culturally and socially. That's why there is nothing sadder than to come across crumbling and decaying relics of cemeteries and to feel helpless to do anything about this loss of heritage. Yet, there are indeed things that can be done to restore grave sites and return this heritage to current communities. The damage inflicted upon the Rohnerville cemeteries has destroyed history vital to Humboldt County. A great many of the memorial tombstones were placed between 100 and 150 years ago and represent some of the earliest Humboldt County European pioneer families to settle in our region.

Visitors to cemeteries expect it to be a clean, well-cared for place of remembrance and quiet reflection. Rarely do they give any thought to who maintains the cemetery's appearance. Weather conditions and staffing challenges make it harder and harder to keep up with visitors high expectations. The Fortuna Cemetery District, which operates the seven cemeteries in Fortuna, Rohnerville and Hydesville is a non-profit, non-sectarian cemetery district. The cemetery district takes care of the grounds surrounding the family plots. Families are encouraged to keep their loved one's headstones clean and free from debris.

Take time to visit your local cemeteries.

Host a field trip for elementary schools, Boy and Girl Scouts, Camp Fire USA or church youth groups to show the next generation this important part of local history. The seven cemeteries of the Fortuna Cemetery District are community memorial gardens and need to be respected and cared for. Perhaps your family, group or organization would be willing to adopt a cemetery to care for. Your great-grandfather Joe would appreciate it.

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