- Associated Press - Saturday, July 23, 2016

NORFOLK, Neb. (AP) - Cemeteries tell stories. You just have to learn how to read them.

For instance, markers tell more than when a person born and died, the Norfolk Daily News (https://bit.ly/2ajH0L9 ) reported. The decoration on the stone can be a profession of a person’s ideals, while the inscription can provide insight into the times in which the person lived.

During a recent St. Paul Lutheran Church’s cemetery walk, the Rev. Richard Schliewe pointed out a cross on top of the marker by the grave of the Rev. John Heckendorf, who died in 1877.

Heckendorf came to the area from Wisconsin in September 1866 to minister to the settlers who had arrived in Norfolk just two months earlier.

The inscription on the stone reads “rest in God,” and a cross sits on top of it - both of which are a testament to Heckendorf’s belief in eternal life, Schliewe said.

Schliewe shared the information while leading tours around St. Paul’s cemetery, located just west of the church on Georgia Avenue. The tours were part of the church’s 150th anniversary celebration, which took place this past weekend.

The cemetery is home to many of the people who founded the town of Norfolk. Consequently, names such as Dederman, Raasch and Braasch are common.

Many of the markers bear symbols and inscriptions testifying to their strong Christian beliefs, Schliewe said, including Bibles, lilies, crosses and two hands in a tight grip indicating that God is taking the deceased person to heaven.

Inscriptions, many in German, provide the same insight. Fred Haase’s stone says, “Christ is my life; death is my victory.” Another says, “Blessed are dead who died in the Lord.”

“The importance of God’s word stands out on the monuments,” Schliewe said.

The monuments also provide a history lesson.

St. Paul’s cemetery - like most pioneer cemeteries - includes graves of children, many of whom died within days or weeks of each other, indicating that an epidemic of some sort must have swept through the area.

Such was the case on Nov. 3, 1879, when 2-year-old and 5-year-old siblings died. Their marker is decorated with a little lamb.

Another stone marks the graves of four of Dr. Ferdinand and Augusta Verges’ daughters - Charlotte died in 1874, Pauline in 1877, Ida in 1880 and Louise in 1882.

A variety of materials were used for monuments, Schliewe said, including granite, marble, sandstone, iron and even concrete.

Age and the elements have worn many away some of the inscriptions and decorations and have made others hard to read. Still, there are times when the light is just right, an inscription will pop out.

Such was the case when Schliewe was preparing for the tour, he said.

He happened to see the faint image on a marker of open gates and a Bible indicating the deceased person was passing through the gates of heaven.

He later rubbed the stone with sidewalk chalk, which helped reveal the image even more.

“The glory of the monuments show what these people believed in,” he said.


Information from: Norfolk Daily News, https://www.norfolkdailynews.com

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