TOLEDO — Merrick Kriz, a cemetery board member and volunteer, thinks the Toledo Cemetery on Arcadia Drive is a wonderful, peaceful place. She enjoys spending time there, as do others.
“I think it’s beautiful. I don’t think it’s creepy at all,” she said as she walked through the oldest section of the extensive graveyard with residents from Toledo dating from the town’s beginnings buried among the towering trees. Headstones in all shapes and sizes, some lined up, some in groups, dot the rolling hills.
It wasn’t surprising to Kriz when Tiffany Cox showed up wanting to help maintain the seven acres of expansive grounds. Cox and her sister, who was visiting from out of the area, discovered Toledo Cemetery as they were driving by. “I just fell in love with it,” Cox told the News-Times. “I saw the signs that they were looking for volunteers.”
Cox related that her sister encouraged her to volunteer. “But I kind of forgot about it because the pandemic hit,” she said. “In June or July, my husband and I were just driving around, and I wanted to show him the cemetery.”
Merrick Kriz, a cemetery board member and volunteer, was out working alongside fellow board members and volunteers, Tony Molina and Mary Leech, Cox related. “I jumped out and introduced myself,” she said.
Cox was working alone on Aug. 17 when she discovered the buried headstone of Edward S. Altree, “Aged 52 Ys. 2 Ms. 26 Ds.,” the stone marking his grave placed more than a century ago detailed.
It was unclear how long the headstone and the grave remained covered before Cox discovered it. “It was only my second time out there working,” she said. “I like being in the old section.”
Cox videotaped the discovery for her sister. “It was just a tiny, tiny corner. I was weed-whacking,” she explained. “I was just moving grass and weeds and stuff, and I saw the corner of a headstone.”
She added, “I have an eye for detail, and I just wanted to figure it out. And, I said, ‘Holy cow, there’s something here!’ “
Her weed whacker ran out of string, leaving Cox with just a plastic plaster spreader, which is what she used to unearth the headstone.
“I found the little bit of concrete, I think it’s what the headstone was sitting in,” Cox recalled. “I believe the headstone was standing up, and at some point it fell, and got covered. I was so thrilled that I found it.”
Cox sent a picture of Edward Altree’s headstone to Kriz, who responded, “I think he was one of the founders of Toledo.”
It is a little strange, I guess, Cox said of volunteer work in a cemetery. “I just think they’re so beautiful.” She noted the lack of money to have professional landscapers or a caretaker.
“I know how to work, she said. “As excited as I was the first time I found it, and how beautiful it is, if there aren’t volunteers to help, it isn’t going to stay beautiful. And who knows how many headstones would get buried.”
Cox said she was in the right place at the right time to uncover Altree’s grave.
Altree’s descendants visiting the cemetery last Friday, Oct. 9, would agree. Kriz related that she encountered three generations of Altrees in search of their ancestor’s grave. She was able to relate the remarkable discovery of it in August, and direct them to the grave.
Kriz remarked that the cemetery has more cremations than burials. “But people are also just looking for options,” she said. A standard burial plot, 4 feet by 10 or maybe 8 feet, depending on the sections, is available for $900, she said. A cremains spot, she said, was $350 for a smaller burial spot that can hold two cremains.
Walking through the cemetery recently, Kriz pointed out Judge Samuel Burt, the county’s first judge when Lincoln County was broken off from Benton and Polk counties, she explained.
“That is a sweet one, with a little lamb or something on the top. There are just all different styles. There’s my high school art teacher,” Kriz said, indicating the grave of Thomas Meyers Kneeland, born July 30, 1935, died Nov 10, 1992, art teacher at Toledo Junior and Senior High School.
“I can’t even figure out how she found it,” Kriz marveled at Cox’s discovery. “That got me thinking. There are all these other blocks.” She indicated a square plot of land devoid of headstones, framed in old concrete.
“Some really wear so much better than others. It’s amazing,” she said. “But this one is all framed in and with no headstones,” Kriz pointed out.
Kriz was clearly thrilled by Cox’s discovery of Altree’s grave. She was equally pleased with the opportunity to show it to Maya Altree, her father and her grandfather.