LEAVENWORTH — Twice a year, members from the Upper Valley Historical Society and community volunteers spend about two hours cleaning up the North Road Cemetery. The next cleanup is happening Wednesday at 11 a.m., weather permitting.
Many people drive by the North Road Cemetery without even knowing it is there. The entrance to the cemetery is between the Amtrak train station and the railroad overpass.
Chris Orcutt, a lifetime resident of the Upper Wenatchee Valley, began organizing the semi-annual cleanups six years ago after seeing Facebook photos of run-down gravesites and landscaping at the cemetery. These photos were posted by an out-of-state Peshastin-Dryden High School classmate of Orcutt, who urged her to organize a group to clean up the graveyard. Orcutt took action.
At that time, Orcutt was a member of the Upper Valley Historical Society Board of Directors. At a board meeting presided over by then-board president Karen Brennick, Orcutt pitched the idea to her fellow board members. Brennick placed the clean up on a subsequent board meeting agenda, and the rest became history with the first organized clean up occurring in 2014.
Orcutt and Brennick, along with their husbands Ron and Gary and a few other “regulars,” have spent a few hours each fall and spring participating in the event. “It is a fun, historically rich activity,” said Orcutt. “It is a quiet setting, and gives one time to think about one’s existence.”
Residents ask Orcutt and Brennick why volunteers are needed to clean-up at this old cemetery. The answer is that there is no endowment to maintain this cemetery, so the area is at the mercy of family members who have loved ones buried in the cemetery and volunteers. Some memorials remain spotless and are often well-kept by friends and loved ones. It is when family members move or pass away that you see more and more neglected plots and gravesites.
Additional volunteers are needed to keep it going. That’s why, when Matt Cade, the current board president, was contacted by Natasha Martin with Sleeping Lady inquiring if he knew of any short, once-a-month volunteer opportunities, he immediately thought of the North Road Cemetery clean up. After an exchange of emails, Cade told Orcutt and Brennick that some Sleeping Lady employees will be joining the cemetery cleanup as part of the Sleeping Lady Cares initiative.
Orcutt and Brennick hope to see other new faces at the Oct. 16 cleanup and encourage people to bring their gardening gloves, rakes and other gardening tools. For more information, contact Chris Orcutt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 548-0728.
Marci Muth is coordinator of Greater Leavenworth Museum, formerly known as Upper Valley Museum.