- Associated Press - Sunday, August 6, 2017

DEACON, Ind. (AP) - Standing atop the hill at Miller Cemetery near the small Cass County town of Deacon, one can easily get caught up in the quiet sounds of nature. Birds chirp as the soft wind swirls through the peaceful silence of the 164-year-old cemetery. But on the evening of July 10, Miller Cemetery was anything but peaceful as several tornadoes ravaged the grounds, toppling trees and overturning headstones. And while the damage left behind was substantial that night, the cemetery is slowly coming back to life thanks in part to the kindness of a community.

“When you look at the awesomeness of the devastation, I’m equally in awe of the volunteers who reached out and expressed an interest in helping clean it up,” Deer Creek Township Trustee Steve Carroll said.

Carroll spent July 28 and 29 supervising work crews at the cemetery, which ranged from 15-20 people both days. Many of the volunteers in attendance were children from local Boy Scout troops who were using the opportunity as a service project.

One of those Boy Scouts was Robert Dayberry, 12, Logansport, who said helping to clean up Miller Cemetery was about giving respect to those who are buried in it.

“It’s best to preserve their burial sites and let them rest in good peace,” he said.

Dayberry’s parents, John and Linda, also volunteered in the cemetery cleanup and said it was their son who actually pushed the family to participate.

“We were going to go camping this weekend,” Linda said, “but Robert said, ‘no, I want to do this,’ so we came here and helped instead.”

It’s that sense of helping to restore what was broken that Carroll said makes him proud.

“My hope is that we can honor all the people who are resting here by giving some attention to this cemetery,” he said. “It’s the power of the numbers coming together to help an overwhelming situation.”

And according to Carroll, the tornadoes did indeed leave a very overwhelming situation. For instance, the half-mile gravel road that leads up to the cemetery was completely washed out, he said, making entrance to the cemetery impossible for awhile. There were also the giant trees that had damaged several of the 524 grave markings. Officials from Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources, Cass County Emergency Management Agency and the Cass County Coroner’s Office assisted in the initial aftermath, and Carroll estimated damages to be about $20,000 - which is about four times the township’s actual cemetery budget.

While the cleanup could take months, Carroll said, most of the two days were spent cutting up several fallen trees and creating a path to some of the headstones that were covered. After the debris is cleared, Carroll said Caldwell Monument Co. in Kokomo can come in and help restore some of the broken headstones.

But though the project of restoring Miller Cemetery appears lengthy, Carroll said he knows it will be all worth it in the end.

“The tornado kind of set us back a few notches, and it’s a massive job,” Carroll said. “So we’re just trying to bring it back up to speed.”

He then motioned to a yellow-lettered sign nearby that read, “this is sacred ground. Please respect and honor the souls whose remains are resting here, Amen.”

That sign and one at the cemetery’s entrance were joint efforts from Cass County and local Boy Scout troops. And Carroll said those signs were also a helpful reminder of why volunteers were there in the first place last weekend.

“We just wanted to give the cemetery the respect we think it deserves,” he said.

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Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune

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Information from: Pharos-Tribune, https://www.pharostribune.com


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