The Roy Cemetery received its annual facelift on Sunday, May 21, during the Roy Cemetery cleanup day.
The event’s organizers, known as the “cemetery caretakers,” said this year’s clean-up was the most successful to date.
Over 30 people showed up to the Roy Cemetery at around 9 a.m. to assist with the effort, which included mowing the lawn, trimming around the headstones, and cutting back trees and shrubs near many of the graves. In addition to the work around the cemetery, nearly 140 American flags were placed at headstones to honor veterans at their final resting place.
The caretakers group consists of four local members: Jeri Setzer, Shannon Faria, Angela Rexroad and Beth King.
As of February, King is the new owner of the Roy Cemetery.
The event organizers said this was the third rendition of the Roy Cemetery cleanup, which is an annual event.
“The clean-up event started in 2021 and we got together and did a clean up. The cemetery was privately owned at that time by another gentleman and people were tired of having the cemetery look horrible,” King said. “We came out, we mowed and did the best we could. It started a communitywide event, and we did it again the following year. We’re here now in our third year of the clean up, and I think it’s the best one so far.”
Setzer said the group uses a D/2 biological spray, which is used to remove dirt and discoloration from many masonry surfaces. Setzer said the spray cleans the headstones over the course of two weeks, but doesn’t hurt the stone.
Faria added the cleaning process depends on the type of marker or headstone.
“To help make it easier to clean, we edge around them so grass doesn’t grow over them because some haven’t been cleaned for 100 years,” Faria said. “If it’s granite, we’ll spray them with D/2 after we clean them with soap and water. If the marker is in bad shape, you don’t even want to touch it. You just spray it with D/2 and let it do its work.”
The Roy Cemetery has a historical feel and presence to it, as a wide variety of gravestones were produced in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It serves as the final resting place for several veterans of the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
The Roy Historical Cemetery was originally established in 1890 by Dr. Samuel Warren, who is considered to be one of the founding fathers of Roy. He created the cemetery after his wife Rebecca passed away.
Warren, his wife Rebecca and their children are buried at the Roy Historical Cemetery. Other prominent Roy pioneer families buried at the cemetery include members of the Longmire family, the Chambers family, the Byrd family, the Lenz family, the Clifton family, the Bush family and the Murray family.
The four cemetery caretakers were moved by the support they received during the clean-up event. King said the event wasn’t scheduled to begin until 11 a.m., but a lot of volunteers showed up two hours earlier.
“I was touched. I had to stop for a second to take it all in before I parked,” Rexroad said.
Setzer added, “It’s happy tears because this cemetery has been neglected for 133 years. I don’t think anyone has ever taken care of it.”
The amount of volunteers who have taken part over the years has increased. During the first cleanup event in 2021, there were around 10 volunteers. That number grew to 15 volunteers in 2022, and this year, more than 30 people showed up.
“Having everyone out here, and knowing that the community cares as much as we do, is priceless. We didn’t know what to do with it at first, but having the help we did today made it so much easier,” Setzer, who has four generations of her family buried at the cemetery, said. “The more people find out about us and learn that there’s new ownership that cares about the cemetery, more will get involved here. We’ve seen an increase in visitors, as more people are coming in to see if their loved ones’ headstones have been cleaned.”
The group is scheduled to host another event at the cemetery on June 3.
“We’re inviting the community to come out and learn how to clean the headstones. We’ll put kits together with D/2 and all the stuff the community needs, and they can come out and learn how to clean them,” Setzer said. “We’ll also lift that monument, make it straight and bring it to where it needs to be. That’s what I’m the most excited about.”
The Roy Historical Cemetery is located at 288th St. S. in Roy.