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October is Historic Cemeteries Month: You can help protect them

Pilot Butte Cemetery Visit Bend
Visit Bend
Bend's Pilot Butte Cemetery was established in 1913. It includes 40 acres of land with 14 acres developed and is maintained by Streets Department personnel.

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- October is a great time to explore and protect historic cemeteries. With fall in the air, leaves changing and morning dew, they are beautiful and powerful places.

Here some ways to participate in Historic Cemeteries Month:

Take a walk in the cemetery. It is a great, COVID-safe activity. Enjoy the natural surroundings, learn about the people that came before you -- and your presence curbs vandalism.

Read up. Many historic cemeteries have websites that share the history of the people and the place. Also, learn about mortuary traditions and mourning practices of cultures other you’re your own. Search your local cemetery, visit Oregon Heritage Exchange, or search the Oregon Historical Society’s Oregon Encyclopedia.

Stop Vandalism. This time of year people want to explore the supernatural and perhaps creepy aspects of historic cemeteries. Its OK to have fun. Have conversations with friends, family and neighbors about the respectful treatment of these places. When communities take responsibility, vandalism decreases. Also, report any new damage you discover.

Plan for your Dias de los Muertos tradition. Contact the cemetery to find out their rules for grave goods, celebrations, etc.

Volunteer. These cemeteries need help. Litter patrol, post storm limb pick-up, trained monument cleaning, volunteer coordination, board membership, etc. Contact your local cemetery directly to find out what they need.

Donate. The cost of cemetery care is surprisingly high. Any donation you offer can provide monument repair, landscape maintenance, records management, and more.

Join the Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries. The commission is seeking new members for one for coastal and one for central Oregon position.

The Commission is seeking members with knowledge related to or interest in cemeteries, historic preservation, genealogy, cultural and burial practices of ethnic groups found in Oregon, landscape and native plants, and history.

The Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries is comprised of seven citizens and is empowered by the Legislature to develop and maintain a listing of all historic cemeteries in Oregon, make recommendations for funding, obtain grant funding, seek legislative appropriations for historic cemeteries, and assist in the coordination of restoration, renovation and maintenance of historic cemeteries statewide. 

The group meets four times per year in changing locations around the state. There may be an occasional additional meeting for extra projects, programs and grant selection. Commissioners are also asked to provide informal meetings in their regions and work on other projects outside of meeting time. Travel costs are reimbursed. While protections measures are in place due to COVID, the meetings will be teleconferences.

To apply, send a letter of interest and resume to commission coordinator Kuri Gill at Kuri.Gill@oregon.gov or 503-986-0685. Please include your reasons for wanting to serve on the commission, any skills or knowledge you will bring to its work, and ideas or goals you have for your participation. Please submit your information before Oct. 30, 2020.

More information about the Historic Cemeteries program is available online at www.oregonheritage.org.

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