The cemetery is occupied by locals or people who had a connection with the area; maybe they grew up on a farm and moved away but wanted to be buried where they grew up.
Dating from 1872, their graves are an eclectic blend of headstones, fences and ornaments. They reflect the circumstance of the occupants and the fashions of the time. The most poignant mark the passing of young children. One is a simple teddy and a vase; another is a hand-carved stone for a child who didn’t have a third birthday.
A particularly inspirational headstone testifies that the occupant “never turned his back but marched breast forward, never doubted clouds would break, never dreamed tho’ right was worsted wrong would triumph, held we fall to rise. Are baffled to fight better.”
He’s “at rest” now. The Grantville Cemetery Trust isn't.
The old cemetery trust committee disbanded through lack of interest in March 1959. There was a nine-year gap before a public meeting was called in August 1968. Councillor Charlie Blackney was elected chairman and Mrs Rita Walker was elected secretary. Charlie stayed as chairman until 1986 then handed over to Allan George.
Recently I spoke to Allan (now secretary-treasurer) and fellow trust member Roger Clark, who spotted an ad for a vacancy when he moved to the area five years. He decided he had a skill set that could help. There are nine other members.
They stood beside the cemetery’s new information board to discuss the work that volunteers do to keep costs down.
They don’t outsource anything except big capital works. Volunteers clean and weed. They do repairs and backfill graves. Bruce Campbell and Merve Milnes have each given 47 years continuous service. Merve still mows the cemetery lawns, which are always neat and tidy. Volunteers work no set hours. When there is a funeral or a working bee they do as much as required. Normally Allan and Roger spend two to three hours a week on trust matters.
Bigger jobs are done through friends of friends, people on the trust who know people. Put the word around and someone puts their hand up. Businesses can see the merit in providing support. The local branch of the Bendigo Bank helped to fund the new information board. The 80-space car park was recently upgraded by Dandy Premix, which provided the labour and equipment as well as discounting the material.
The trust receives a steady income from around 12 interments and seven Niche Wall occupations a year and undertakes maintenance of the graves into perpetuity. Currently 20 per cent of people are interred in the monumental section and 80 per cent in the lawn section. Of the latter, 60 per cent are burials and 40 per cent cremations.
Allan credits much of the cemetery’s current standing in the community to the resurgence that followed that public meeting in 1968. The hard work put in by those who have served since that meeting is obvious.
The new information board near the entranceway is an alphabetical listing of each person with their grave number. The other side is an easy-to-follow plan of the cemetery. Highly visible numbering of the rows and sections of the cemetery complement this innovation.
Visitors want to pay their respects to their loved one without fuss. Now, people who can’t attend a funeral are able to find their place of solace swiftly. Trust members are still more than happy to handle inquiries. The board makes it easier to help.
Roger finalised the list for the board after Barb Stewart, a trust member for 11 years, did a lot of the early work. They collated information from three different sources. Anyone who’s ever typed 1100 names, dates and numbers will appreciate this level of dedication. Last week the list went online at www.grantvillecemetery.org.au. It will be updated after future interments so it remains accurate.
Family history researchers will recognise this as a point of difference from other online resources, some of which aren’t regularly updated or don’t include unmarked graves. This list, and the official website, detail every grave in the cemetery. They cost nothing to access. A local computer expert donates his expertise.
They’ve been burying people in Grantville Cemetery since 1872 so it’s safe to say the work of the trust members will endure for generations. As volunteers, their motivation, and their reward, is assisting others in their time of grief.
Driving downhill to rejoin the highway, I reflect that it’s good to know relatives and friends are in trusted hands.