Cemetery wreath program provides way to remember loved ones at Christmas
Author’s Note: Kristi Dvorak is a freelance virtual assistant, writer, and website creator from Arnold, Nebraska. She is the creator of the Arnold Cemetery website and wreath program. A cheerleader for rural Nebraska communities, Kristi enjoys living the small-town life while working from home to support businesses in Nebraska and across the country. In her “spare” time, Kristi can be found watching her daughter’s activities, reading, running, or going for a walk in the pasture with her family.
Article and photos by Kristi Dvorak
As retail stores are stocking their shelves with the year’s most-wanted holiday gifts and Christmas movies are streaming on Netflix, another kind of Christmas celebration is taking shape at a cemetery in the central Nebraska village of Arnold.
It’s the kind of celebration that tugs on your heartstrings … sometimes a little, usually a lot.
Local residents, friends and family from far and wide are having handmade Christmas wreaths placed at loved one’s graves in the Arnold Cemetery during the month of December through a new wreath program.
The cemetery wreath program was launched in 2013 as a means to support the newly created, one-of-a-kind Arnold Cemetery website.
A new kind of website making it personal
Unlike most cemetery websites, the Arnold Cemetery website is more than just a listing of names and dates. It’s a place where families can share information about their loved ones. They can personalize a loved one’s page by submitting photos, stories, obituaries, and more. Every life is interesting and unique, and the website is a way to make sure these valued stories aren’t lost and are available to friends and family all over the world.
The website is also a reflection on the community. A website is often the first impression people have of a community, and Arnold is putting its best foot forward, showing it is a progressive community that values the important things in life: family, friends, and neighbors.
Monetary donations, a Custer County Foundation grant, and four years of research and volunteer work made the website a reality. There are currently more than 3,000 pages on the site. Just launched in May 2016, many pages are yet to be personalized.
Participation in the wreath program, as well as monetary donations, support ongoing hosting fees for the website and other backend expenses, keeping it live for all to enjoy.
A service for those near and far
Christmas is a busy time for the cemetery wreath program. Departed loved ones are often most missed during the holidays. For elderly residents who find it difficult to get out or those who live far away or are short on time, the cemetery wreath program offers a helping hand to celebrate the lives of those who may not be with us anymore.
While the wreaths can be displayed in a home or business or given as a gift, most are used in the cemetery program to display at a loved one’s grave. Wreaths in the program are delivered to the cemetery in early December and mounted on specially made stands, keeping them off the ground and secure. After the holidays, the wreaths are collected from the cemetery and stored until next Christmas, at which point they will be repaired if needed, and used again (by the same family).
Volunteer cherubs give each wreath a personal touch
Volunteer cherubs make all the wreaths. These creative ladies do their best to accommodate requests for personalization. Designs range from colorful mesh wreaths to grapevine wreaths to greenery wreaths — no two wreaths are alike. The decorations on the wreaths receive extra reinforcement to withstand outdoor elements.
A sampling of their handmade creations includes:
- A wreath for twin baby girls that included pink and white colored ribbon, sparkly snowflakes, and Christmas balls, with two little angels facing each other.
- Matching wreaths for a husband and wife who at one time were owners of the local newspaper. Their wreaths featured traditional red poinsettias and Christmas ornaments, with strips of laminated newspaper used as ribbon accents.
- A musical-themed wreath for a young man who was known for his love of playing the drums. His wreath featured miniature drums and musical notes on a greenery style wreath.
- A heavy-equipment wreath for a man who loved operating dirt-moving equipment. His unique wreath had miniature yellow Caterpillar equipment, pine cones, and a red checkered flannel bow.
- A fishing-themed wreath for an avid fisherman. His wreath included a real fishing pole and lures, a “gone fishing” sign, burlap ribbon, and pine cones.
Every year, there is also a generous request for a wreath to be put on a grave that never gets decorated. Last year, it was fittingly placed on the grave of Richard Allen, one of the founders of Arnold.
The cemetery cherubs also provide handmade wreaths for Memorial Day, Fourth of July, birthdays, and other holidays or events upon request.
The celebration of the lives of departed loved ones at Christmas is a personal journey made a little more special in Arnold.
For more information about the Arnold Cemetery website and the wreath program, visit www.arnoldcemetery-ne.org.