Preserve and celebrate the past

Neosho Falls and its Senior Center have made improvements to the community, especially with a new sign and in its historic cemetery.

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November 5, 2020 - 10:02 AM

Members of the Neosho Valley Senior Center, front row from left, are Helen George, Ginny Carrol, Lana Eckroat, Carol Bruner, Mike Bruner; back row, Gene Carrol, Ed Fitzpatrick, Mike Fitzgerald, Sherrie Fitzgerald and Steve Maddox. Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

Neosho Falls is working hard to preserve and celebrate its past.

Thanks to efforts by the Neosho Valley Senior Center, the town has a new sign and stones in its historic cemetery will soon see repairs.

Sherrie Guatney-Fitzgerald outlined the recent improvements to the community, and spoke about “how nice it was to show some hometown pride.”

“We were trying to come up with ways to beautify the area,” she said.

And it’s a labor of which many have been proud to be a part.

THE NEW SIGN features a river scene from Neosho Falls’ distance past, juxtaposed with an image of the Methodist Church and original school mascot (the bulldogs).

The committee for designing the sign was composed of Helen George, Lana Eckroat, Charlene German and Linda Smith.

Retired teacher Kathe Hamman also contributed her artistic vision to the project, which everyone involved described as invaluable.

The committee for building the sign included Mike Bruner, Mike Fitzgerald, Ed Fitzpatrick and Steve Maddox.

Hence as Helen George noted, “just about everybody has had a hand in it. It’s been a lot of fun to get it to the place where it’s at now.”

Eventually, the goal is to build a pitched roof to protect the sign and its artwork, along with installing flood lights that will illuminate it from the ground.

Although some are reticent to advertise the town to outsiders, especially as a “ghost town,” Guatney-Fitzgerald said she’s always known Neosho Falls in this way and suggested she’s happy to affirm the label.

Indeed, Neosho Falls is a historic jewel in Woodson County, and has a lot of features that one might reasonably showcase.

Mike Fitzgerald points out several headstones in Cedarvale Cemetery that are slated for repairs. Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

FORTHCOMING repairs to Cedarvale Cemetery were made possible by a recent bean feed and fundraiser, which appropriately enough, took place on Halloween.

Estimates put the crowd size at around 75, along with quite a few carry-outs.

It’s a tradition that at one time was practiced every year, led by Josie Weiland, and that residents have recently decided to rekindle.

This year’s event raised $1,200, with an average donation of $18 per person, which as Guatney-Fitzgerald explained, is enough to fix up seven or eight headstones.

Efforts were also aided by G&W Foods in Iola and Yates Center, who donated large hams for the occasion.

The stones targeted for repair are primarily historic, from the mid-to-late nineteenth century, and as such have no one left alive to care for them.

Many have been damaged by vandalism over the years, as well as mowing equipment.

There are also a few newer stones slated for repairs (or installation), though, such as one for resident John Kisk, who people still lovingly refer to as “Smoker.”

Restoration work will be performed by Brian Weide, who has already leveled and straightened several headstones on the cemetery’s west end.

“We’re going to take our time and go through the whole cemetery as we can afford to,” said Mike Fitzgerald.

“It’s all about community, taking care of everything.”

He also pointed to the old adage: “Don’t forget where you came from.”

THE WISH-LIST for making community upgrades extends beyond signage and the cemetery as well.

Future projects include a town clean-up and more.

Anyone who is willing to help is welcome, for as Guatney-Fitzgerald remarked: “It’d be great if we had other folks to help make improvements.”

And one is sure to be received warmly, for as Mike Fitzgerald added, “We’re all like family at the senior center.”

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