Maintaing the Sunset Pioneer Cemetery is a semi-annual event
by: Barbara Sherman, HONORING EARLY PIONEERS — Members of the Tigard High School football team and friends pause around a new sign at the Sunset Pioneer Cemetery that recognizes the efforts of the Tigard Breakfast Rotary Club.

TIGARD - Members of the Tigard Breakfast Rotary Club and the Tigard High School football team had a sense of déjà vu while cutting back ivy and cleaning up debris at the Sunset Pioneer Cemetery on Pacific Highway Sept. 9 - many of them had been there before.

More than 10 years ago, the Rotary club made a commitment to clean up the cemetery twice a year after being asked to take on the project by member Dale Sloat, who was pastor of Trinity Evangelical Church, owner of the cemetery, at the time.

The church, which was founded in 1886, was originally located along Pacific Highway opposite what is now Bull Mountain Road, but it was forced to relocate when the highway was widened in the 1930s.

The cemetery, which opened shortly after the church started, stayed behind.

The church first moved to downtown Tigard and then to its current location on Southwest 121st Avenue off Scholls Ferry Road, according to pastor Steve Blikstad, who again joined the cleanup.

Because the Rotary club gives scholarships to THS football players to offset their fees and other expenses, club members have asked the players to participate in the cleanup. For some, it was their first visit to the cemetery, while others had been there several times.

At this month's event, 28 club members and football players showed up with gloves and tools, ready to go to work.

The club also provided lots of snacks for the growing boys as well as its own members.

'Our work honors the people in our community who were here a long time ago,' said Sloat, who noted that the Oregon Pioneer Cemetery Association 15 years ago listed Sunset as 'abandoned to nature.'

'Thanks to these efforts, that is no longer true,' he said. 'We have a map with most of the tombstones marked.'

Over the years, the tombstones have been cleaned and set upright, and a gravel trail along the south side has been added.

At the west edge of the cemetery, a huge pile of debris was accumulated during the cleanup for a Rotary club member to later haul away in his pickup. Nearby was a growing pile of pop and beer cans that had been tossed throughout the cemetery.

During the May 2005 cleanup, the club named the cemetery project as its centennial project to celebrate the 100th year of Rotary, and the cemetery was dedicated as a memorial to Paul Harris, who founded Rotary Clubs International in 1905.

At this fall's event, the club dedicated another sign that reads 'Sunset Pioneer Cemetery - maintained by: Tigard Breakfast Rotary.'

In lieu of a formal dedication ceremony, Sloat listed several reasons for remembering the cemetery, such as 'In honor of all the Tigard pioneers who rest here,' 'To the citizens who pass by here (on Pacific Highway) and have no idea it's here,' and 'To all of us who realize some day someone will care for our graves,' the group in unison repeated, 'We dedicate this cemetery.'

Over the years, Boy Scouts have completed their Eagle Scout projects at the cemetery, and one Eagle Scout was in attendance at the event: Peter Wirtz, who was visiting from Helena, Mont., and joined his mother, Rotary member Ellen, at the cleanup.

However, the cleanup came to an abrupt end when THS coach Andy Hansen announced that he had to get his players to a game.

The Rotary Club, which also supports the DARE and youth football programs, meets every Tuesday at 7 a.m.

For more information on the club, call Curt Langer at 503-495-5219.

Go to top