For Marveen Rohr, a three-year project to better honor the dead is coming to a close with the Greenwood Memorial Park seeing new life.
A formal rededication ceremony for Centralia’s Greenwood Memorial Park will occur at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 28.
A week before that, a final work party to “polish” the cemetery for the ceremony will run from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 21, according to information presented by Rohr during Tuesday’s Centralia City Council meeting.
“In restoring this historic cemetery, we’ve learned so much about those who are buried,” Rohr said of the facility that holds more than 2,000 graves. “There are early settlers. There are citizens of various times and ages. And there are many, many veterans of our armed forces. Veterans of nearly every war are buried in Greenwood cemetery — the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.”
She said the public can expect a rich history lesson when it comes to Greenwood, as seen through the restoration and organization of the cemetery’s records.
Rohr and her cohort have discovered in the records that the cemetery honors several members of Gold Star families — the families of those who have died in service to the country.
“One of those family members will represent all of our Gold Star families in the traditional laying of the wreath in the ceremony on the 28th,” Rohr said. “In this rededication ceremony, we will honor everyone — everyone who’s buried in Greenwood cemetery. But we will have a formal military tribute to our veterans who have been laid to rest there.”
The event will include an honor guard and a flag-raising ceremony.
“If you’ve been out there recently, you’ve probably seen those beautiful, new flag poles. They represent our nation, our state and all the branches of our military. They will be the center of our rededication program,” Rohr said.
She thanked American Legion Post 17 and the statewide Legion organization for their support in the matter, saying that the Legion Riders will be out in force for the ceremony.
“Records show that ceremonies like this were conducted as far back as 1929,” Rohr said. “We have tried to honor those traditions, and we hope that we will prove that out during this ceremony.”
By 2018, Greenwood Memorial Park had been deemed abandoned with tall weeds giving way to open burial vaults, many of which were filled with trash. Fallen tree limbs were strewn about the premises and dirt tracks full of mud puddles traced the cemetery. The grime-covered and broken headstones stood amid patches of grass, while orange cones marked holes in the soil.
The damage done to the cemetery was synonymous with neglect, as former owner John Baker let the place fall into disrepair due to personal and legal troubles, according to previous Chronicle reporting.
But since 2018, Centralia received $250,000 from the state to purchase the cemetery, subsequently obtaining an additional $500,000 from the 2019 state capital budget for its restoration.
The cemetery had undergone quite the transformation as of 2021, according to previous Chronicle reporting. The city and stakeholders removed dead trees, cut back the overgrown brush, power washed the headstones and repainted the concrete vaults, replacing those broken.
The Centralia City Council voted April 12 to receive a $30,000 grant from the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation to improve the Greenwood Memorial Park.
The grant afforded the design, construction and installation of two wrought iron gates and the asphalt paving of the main entrance road and loop around the facility’s Pioneer Square.
The restoration work that has taken place to bring the cemetery back to life was a group effort, Rohr said Tuesday.
“We have received very positive feedback from the public. Once again — and we can’t say it too many times — we want to thank you. Thank you for your help. You are the ones, along with the Washington state Legislature, to allow this to happen,” she said.