Public invited to Nov. 15 meeting in Pershing; ISP investigation continues

About 50 people concerned about the future of an East Germantown cemetery gathered a month ago for an emergency meeting to take the first steps toward its reorganization.

Now, several new bylaws with added safeguards are being proposed while an Indiana State Police investigation into the cemetery’s previous management is taking place.

Despite being pleased with the previous turnout, the cemetery’s new board leaders are hopeful that more people will attend their next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, for updates and to make personal connections.

The meeting takes place at the adjacent Zion’s Lutheran Church, 1151 S. Germantown Road, in East Germantown. While church leaders do not run the cemetery, its members have a voice on the new board.

The organization is called Zion’s Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery Association of East Germantown, Indiana, and does business as the Lutheran Cemetery Foundation of Pershing, Indiana.

Donna Wright is serving as secretary/treasurer. The board’s new president, former bank auditor Paul Railsback, said it takes support to keep a cemetery operational, and if that support doesn’t come in the next few months, keeping things running will be tough.

A slate of new board members – which grew to seven from five – was approved by the lot owners who attended the October meeting. Those new leaders also include Daryl Fields, Terry Bertsch, Ron Lamont and Wanda Knipp.

Tom Bertsch and Railsback acknowledge that they’re the oldest board members and they need younger residents.

“It’s an asset for the community, but the community has to be part of it,” Railsback said.

The cemetery must rely on money from plot sales and contributions to fund its maintenance expenses while its previous funds are being evaluated.

“The budget is going to be tight for a while,” Railsback said.

At the meeting, interested area residents, and those who have loved ones buried in the cemetery or own plots there, can ask questions and find out more about how they can help keep the cemetery operating.

“Our focus is moving forward,” Railsback said. “The past is the past and we’re sorry it happened, and we don’t want the past to repeat itself.”

What’s in the works

Copies of new bylaws will be distributed at the gathering. Changes being considered include restrictions on board members from the same immediate family and updates to procedures for check writing, voting and fundraising.

Questions about the cemetery’s management arose when its grass grew abnormally tall earlier this summer.

The mowing crew had stopped work because of a lack of payment, said Steve Slonaker, who facilitated the Oct. 3 meeting. That discovery led to volunteers’ further inquiry into cemetery operations and then state police involvement.

Organizers previously estimated about $20,000 is needed for annual operations, and they are hopeful that maintenance costs will be low as winter approaches. Mowing has been stopped until spring.

Contributions are not tax-deductible at this time until the organization can be reinstated.

Checks, made payable to the Lutheran Cemetery Foundation of Pershing, can be sent to the board’s new mailing address, P.O. Box 22, Pershing, IN 47370. Donation envelopes will be available at the meeting, and receipts can be issued at that time.

Railsback also is hopeful that some residents would be interested in donating to the cemetery through a bequest in their will.

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Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.