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Graveyards are strangely comforting


I thoroughly enjoyed the production of “Sister Act” at the Old Opera House in April. The costumes, the acting, the set design were all terrific.


It made me think of Edge Hill Cemetery.


I gave up jogging years ago, and now I get my steps by traversing the cemetery. The roads are usually free of traffic, the terrain is fairly level and, needless to say, it’s very quiet.


Walking through the cemetery gives me a strong sense of community. There are lots of names I recognize from my 40 years in Jefferson County. School board members, elected officials, civic leaders, community organizers, educators—so many gave of their time to strengthen our community. Reading the familiar names on the headstones is strangely comforting. 


I have reached that terrible age when many of the people I have enjoyed for decades are leaving us. Back in the day, congratulation cards for new babies and school graduations dominated my notecard supply. Now I buy stacks of sympathy cards.


A writer once commented, “Graveyards are full of indispensable people.” It seems the losses to our community of indispensable people are mounting. Jane Rissler, Ren Parziale, Grant Smith, Dale Manuel and James Tolbert are just a few of the luminaries we have lost. 


Fast forward to “Sister Act.” The program includes more than 50 names of people who contributed their time and talent to the production. I recognized three of them. Back in the 1980s when my husband Ron was president of the Old Opera House, we knew almost everyone participating in the planning and production of shows. Not anymore.  


I am reminded of John F. Kennedy’s famous statement, “The torch has been passed to a new generation.” In the case of Jefferson County, the torch has been passed to new arrivals. In 2023 alone a total of 796 building permits were issued in the county. This is the single largest number of residential building permits issued in 20 years.


The increase in new residents is affecting every aspect of life, including the political scene. Having a familiar county name is no longer enough to win votes. When I ran for county commission in 2008, people told me I would get votes solely based on my husband’s family name. People knew of the Widmyers and their community activities. With our county’s growing population, longtime family names are no longer so important.


At my advanced age, I am happy to pass the torch to a new generation of newcomers to our county. I just hope when it comes to getting involved in making our community better our new residents will be as indispensable as those who are now resting in peace.


Spirit of Jefferson, June 12,2024

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