The Greenwood Memorial Park has been a sore spot for the community as it was for years choked by overgrown vegetation and trash while not being maintained, but after action from the city of Centralia and state funding in 2019, the cemetery restoration process is on track to be completed by this summer.
“I’m encouraged because I know there are so many families around here that have loved ones buried in that cemetery,” said Marveen Rohr, chair of the Greenwood Cemetery Restoration Committee. “I hope they have an opportunity to look at it now and they are feeling good about it, knowing that the project is not complete but that their loved ones are being honored.”
In the cemetery, which is home to over 2,000 graves, the dead trees have been removed, the brush has been cut back, headstones were power washed, concrete vaults were repainted and over 300 broken vaults are currently being replaced.
“When you come into the main entrance, we want that to look really nice and people can come to the center area to park and go on out and do their visitation,” Centralia City Manager Rob Hill said.
The remaining restoration work to replace the damaged vaults, restore the center area of the cemetery and landscape the area is on track to be completed this summer, Hill said.
Rohr, a Centralia native, has been volunteering to help get the cemetery back to a respectable condition for a couple of years now and is happy with the progress, she said.
Rohr has family buried in Greenwood Memorial Park, so the overgrown and unkempt state of the cemetery was particularly upsetting.
“I, like others, was a concerned, interested citizen and I got involved because the cemetery had been allowed to go into disrepair that was absolutely unacceptable,” Rohr said.
The members of the committee felt that the forebears of the city deserved to be buried somewhere respectable. Through the process, Rohr said, they learned some of Centralia’s history as they found graves from some who had fought in the Civil War.
Before the cemetery’s records were found, finding the burial location of their loved ones was nearly impossible. The records were found, and the city had them cleaned and is in the process of organizing them. Access to the records will be available at an information kiosk in the center of the cemetery.
Rohr said they are still in the planning stages of restoring that area. They have found some old photos to help give them an idea of what it looked like years ago. In years past, the center of the cemetery was a place for community members to gather on Veterans Day or Memorial Day to honor those buried at Greenwood.
“A cemetery is one of the most important assets a community has … there’s a lot of emotion tied to a place like that,” Hill said.
Hill said he is glad the city was able to step in and help get the cemetery back to a respectable condition after decades of neglect.
“It has been a lot of work, but with the help of our city and the Washington state Legislature helping to get us funding to restore it, it’s a very big project and it’s coming along well and the progress is very significant,” Rohr said.
The Greenwood Memorial Park is located at 1905 Johnson Road in Centralia.
The memorial park began falling into disrepair well over a decade ago as legal troubles mounted for former owner and sexton John Baker.
The cemetery was considered abandoned by the state in 2015 until the Washington Senate passed Engrossed House Bill 1801 by a 47-0 margin in April of 2019, granting Centralia access to the property and nearly $500,000 in funding from the state capital budget to clean it up.