Walk beautifies cemetery

Karen Danner
An original: Rich Lipsey sits in the gazebo at Chillicothe City Cemetery. Rich and his wife, Earline, first brought attention to the condition of the cemetery in 1994.

The goal has never changed, but the number of hands doing the work has decreased quite a bit.

The Chillicothe Cemetery Enhancement Committee would like to see this trend reversed, so they can continue with their original goal — to maintain the cemetery as “a beautiful, serene and tranquil place for family and friends to honor the memories of our loved ones.”

Once each year, the group hosts the “I Believe in Angels Memorial Walk” to raise funds for their ongoing projects.

Their first large project was construction of the gazebo on the south side of the cemetery.

What was originally a huge bare spot sporting a broken flag pole transformed into a well-landscaped, peaceful section, called Garden of Angels, where visitors to the cemetery could spend some time in reflection.

Last year, the committee planted trees along Sixth Street. To date, about 137 trees have been planted in the cemetery.

This year, they would like to begin landscaping around the Fourth Street entrance.

People are encouraged to walk in memory of a loved one.

The fee for the walk is $20, and households bringing three or more people can register for $12 each.

Walk packet pickup starts at 8 a.m. at Pearce Community Center.

At 9 a.m., the group will walk 2 miles from Pearce down Sixth Street to the cemetery and back.

Anyone unable to attend who would like to make a donation, no matter how large or small, can send it to: Chililicothe Cemetery Enhancement Committee, 1604 Greystone Court, Chillicothe, IL 61523.

Memory stones are still for sale for $125 in memory of a loved one. A sample stone will be on display at the walk.

The first memory stone purchased and placed at the gazebo was for Greg Lipsey, son of Earline and Rich Lipsey, who died in 1994.

Committee president Deb Johnigk has been involved with the group since its inception.

She often found her work taking her away from Chillicothe, and it was not until she retired last year that she started giving the group the effort she likes.

“After Earline and Rich Lipsey’s son, Greg, died, they were appalled about the roads and the condition of the cemetery,” said Johnigk.

“My oldest son, Brian, was a good friend of Greg. The roads were gravel then, and my daughter got stuck out there one time putting flowers on a grave.”

The group organized and approached the city council, receiving help with their dreams for their loved ones’ final resting places.

“The roads are beautiful now,” said Johnigk. “They’re all paved.”

Today, Johnigk has even more reason to help care for City Cemetery. Her grandson, Ethan

Johnigk (son of Brian Johnigk), died in 2001 and is also buried there.

“My kids have a lot of friends from school buried there, too,” she said.

Serving on the committee also with Johnigk is her daughter, Melissa (Lance) Castle, and Melissa’s mother-in-law, Terri (Jim) Castle.

Even though the city cares for the cemetery, the gazebo area is to be maintained by the Cemetery Enhancement Committee.

Weeding the area is a weekly chore, said Rich Lipsey.

“Michelle Greskoviak and her kids spent a lot of time out there this summer weeding,” said Johnigk.

Also pitching in have been alderman Judy Cantwell and her family and friends, who spent an entire day on the gazebo recently.

“My kids and I also have spent several days out there,” said Johnigk.

To ease the burden on the few, more people are invited to join the group to keep the cemetery in pristine condition.

Johnigk said they will especially miss the late Art Jackson, who offered any assistance the group needed for several years.

Johnigk said donations are very important to continue the work started at Chillicothe City Cemetery.

“I hope a lot of people can come out for the walk,” she said. “If not, donations of any size are always welcome.”