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PIONEERS in cemetery restoration

Volunteers carry out restoration of Cherryville Celemtery


by: POST PHOTO: LISA K. ANDERSON - Volunteers from the Cherryville Cemetery Restoration Project say they have two-thirds of the cemetery left to clean up and are working on grants for gates and markers.Past a gravel road and private residence, right by the old Barlow Trail, a group of volunteers congregates at the Cherryville Cemetery.

Lawn chairs, buckets, coolers and tables fill the space.

Today’s task this warm September afternoon is to begin repairing pioneer headstones and take inventory before the next cleanup.

“The first time I came out here, it looked like a complete forest, and I said, ‘No, this can’t happen; we need to fix this,’ ” says Joyce Yam, a Beaverton resident whose ancestors are buried in the cemetery. “I wanted to make it right.”

Since April, the Cherryville Cemetery Restoration Project, a group of volunteers including Yam, Kay Wright from the Sandy Historical Society and history enthusiast Deborah Guinther, has conducted work parties to preserve the pioneer cemetery.

When the group first started, the 2.3-acre cemetery was overgrown, and the headstones were undetectable.

With the help of the Sandy Historical Society, community volunteers, Cherryville residents and youths from AntFarm, the group is gradually making headway and unearthing history.

by: POST PHOTO: LISA K. ANDERSON  - Sally Donovan, a historic preservationist, explains headstone cleaning to volunteers at Cherryville Cemetery.Guinther, a Canby resident, remembers coming out to the cemetery her ancestors were buried in for a cleanup as a little girl in the 1960s. The historical intrigue and her passion for Cherryville bring her back decades later.

“That was the ‘Addams Family’ era on TV, and all the cousins were in heaven here,” Guinther says, laughing and gesturing to the headstones.

Guinther and Yam have created a book now 4 inches thick with the group’s findings — everything from photos to obituaries to stories from current Cherryville residents — and encourage anyone with more material to share it.

“I feel like I know all these people,” Guinther says. “We want to see what stories others know of them.”

Yam says the group plans to apply for more grants to build gates for the cemetery and historic markers.

“We have about two-thirds left to clear,” Yam says of the cemetery. “We’d like to have it surveyed so we can actually have it mapped out.”

by: POST PHOTO: LISA K. ANDERSON  - Cherryville Cemetery was filled with tools, lawn chairs and coolers on a warm September afternoon.Today the group is accompanied by Hood River historic preservationists Sally and Bruce Donovan, who were brought on through the Heritage Program from the Oregon Parks and Recreation grants and teach the volunteers how to care for the headstones.

The Donovans describe how headstones used to be selected from Sears and Roebuck catalogs as they demonstrate a headstone cleaning.

Regina Ballou, a lifelong Cherryville resident, says it’s nice to be identified as a Cherryville-ite as opposed to being grouped with the Sandy-ites.

“The more we learn about Cherryville, the more it identifies us as a separate community,” she says.

Wright said the group expected to take up to three years to fully clean up the cemetery.

She noted that groups had tried to tackle the project in the 1960s, and that Connie Revenue had helped revive the efforts in recent years.

“It’s not a lonely, dark place, but a happy cheerful place,” Wright says. “It’s a big puzzle we’re putting together, and it’s coming to us.”

Yam adds, “Nothing is really gone until it’s forgotten, and we’re doing our best to make sure the cemetery is remembered. It has taken on a life of its own.”