Editorial: A City that Refuses to Honor it’s Dead is not Worthy of Respect


A City that Refuses to Honor it’s Dead is not Worthy of Respect

In yet another in our face example of abject failure with respect to maintenance and accepting responsibility on the part of the City of Evansville, Todd Robertson, the executive director of the Evansville Transportation and Services Department charged with running the cemeteries has laid the responsibility for maintenance of tombstones at the feet of the families of the deceased?

Why are we not surprised that this is the official position of the City Administration that has recently been exposed for needles in the parks, intentionally allowing Roberts Stadium to deteriorate, and not even having the foresight to spend $100,000 to keep the Mesker Park Amphitheatre painted and mold free? It was widely seen as arrogant and impractical several winters ago when then Department of Metropolitan Development leader Tom Barnett asserted the downtown merchants were responsible for snow removal at a time that over half of the storefronts were abandoned? Based on recent history we must ask if the City of Evansville has the capacity to do anything right that involves maintenance?

The attitude regarding the maintenance of tombstones in City owned cemeteries is the last draw? This policy is not practical, it spits in the face of our heritage, and it is not acceptable. Each and every person buried in these cemeteries represents a part of all of us. Each and every person buried in these cemeteries represents a commitment on the part of the City of Evansville to provide honorable maintenance in return for the payment that was made by or on behalf of our dead. To be cavalier in doing basic day to day tasks like locking the gates at night so vandals can’t wreak havoc and then make a public statement that the tombstones that need resetting are the responsibility of the relatives is not only arrogant it is impractical? Many of the dead do not have relatives yet their desecrated or poorly maintained headstones make the City of Evansville’s cemeteries look like a scene from a zombie movie.

The City County Observer calls upon Mayor Lloyd Winnecke to mobilize his growing army of fitness buffs who help with exercise videos and attempts to set world records for doing pushups in the park to take this issue on. If there is one thing that Mayor Winnecke deserves accolades for it is cleaning up blight. Desecrated tombstones are the most insulting form of blight that there is. To allow the stated opinion of Todd Robertson to stand is to sanction and enable the dishonor of our dead. The solution to this is simple and the time to correct this abomination is right now. To do anything less that restate the policy toward the dead and take immediate actions to reset these markers is simply whistling past the graveyard.


  1. Wow-thanks CCO for a right on Editiorial.

    I hope the Mayor calls Todd Robertson to his office today and explain to him what “Good Public Policy” is all about! A crash course in public relations wouldn’t hurt him either!

    I have love ones buried in Oak Hill and I’m insulted by Mr. Robertson remarks!

  2. Absolutely!! AS you correctly pointed out, my first response to this clown was what about the deceased who no longer have family in this area or even with one living?

    Robertson needs to be shown the door along with a few of the other bozos responsible for the disaster that is quickly engulfing anything this city is responsible for.

  3. What happened to township government being responsible for the upkeep of cemeteries?

    • You are thinking of the little abandoned private and family cemeteries scattered throughout the townships, and not the large city-owned and operated cemeteries such as Oak Hill and Locust Hill.

  4. The City is too busy going broke throwing funds down some grand, egotistical, visionary money pit or another to fund anything utilitarian and worthwhile that actually falls under their charge.

    My question to this issue of cemeteries would be: was there a contract the deceased person entered into with the City to maintain their grave in perpetuity? And were sufficient funds provided by said deceased party to the City in compensation for such activity? If not, then the deceased had no reason to have expected anything more than dilapidation of their grave when left in the care of government. However, this is the very reason why governments should not be expected to perform such duties in the first place… The more responsibility we hand over to them, the more chances they have to screw it up.

    DEAD PEOPLE DON’T VOTE! Therefore, the maintenance of graveyards is going to be at or near the bottom of any administration’s to-do list. This is why, as the Editor suggests, it should remain up to concerned citizens to take ownership and responsibility for honoring our dead by caring for cemeteries close to where we live, cleaning the ones we visit while we are there, and creating a good example to follow. It should NOT be left up to government. Expecting them to do it is inviting certain failure.

    I like the idea of fitness buffs clean them up… How about rather than hosting another marathon fundraiser sometime, some of these organizations host cemetery clean-ups instead, or park clean-ups, or roadside or riverside cleanups? Rather than blockading some downtown streets and running up and down them for cancer, why not do some of these other things and kill two birds with one stone?

    That’s my two cents, but what the hell do I know? I’m just a crazy libertarian.

    • I didn’t read anywhere where the editor suggested “it should remain up to concerned citizens to take ownership and responsibility for honoring our dead by caring for cemeteries close to where we live, cleaning the ones we visit while we are there, and creating a good example to follow.”

      We must have read two different articles.

      • He suggested that Winneke and all his “fitness” buddies do it, which was, I’m sure was a joke, but he might be onto something there…

        Extend that suggestion to the neighbors and visitors of these cemeteries. Extend it further to these foundations who host marathons for one cause or another… I don’t know about you, but that seems to be like a lot of manpower wasted on running around in circles while they could be making a real difference in the community in two ways rather than just one.

        But you’re right. I think the editor is mistaken on this issue, IMO. As indelicate as his statement might have been, I actually have to agree with Todd Robertson on this. His approach was the libertarian approach. But that approach won’t work in a vacuum. It would require a return by the community to the idea of civic duty, something that has been lost in the ever-progressing march toward finding a government solution for every problem.

    • Ah but the dead have been known to vote right here in Evansville. The problem with the dead voting is that they always seem to vote exactly like the living tell them to. The living even fill out the ballots for the dead.

      • If you were awaken from the Long Sleep and given a 2nd chance, wouldn’t you vote as told by your Crypt Cracker too?

  5. The idea of the family members being responsible for resetting the headstones of their departed family members is Totally Outrageous.
    The City was paid to inter the remains and to maintain the Cemetery and the citizens of the city and county pay taxes for the maintenance of these facilities.
    To say that it is the responsibility of the decedents family to reset the headstones, is like saying it is your responsibilty to patch the chuckholes in the street in front of your house.
    The lack of proper care of the City’s Cemeteries is a reflection on the leadership of the city. Who in their right mind thinks a cemetery with tumbled headstones makes a good impression of the operation of the City?
    If the city is short-handed with personnel, they could use work release inmates to correct the problems with very little supervision, much like the grass mowing and trash pickup crews they use.
    The condition of Locust Hill Cemetery is deplorable, but then what would you expect of a facility that barracades the MAIN ENTRANCE and makes everyone use the BACK DOOR.
    There is a house across the road that used to be the Superintendents residence and office for the cemetery, that is now closed. If you want information as to the location of a grave site, you have to go to Oakhill Cemetery for that information. Now thats real service to the general public, don’t you agree?
    It makes me mad to see this Cemetery in this condition because my Grandfather was the Superintendent at Locut Hill for 10 years and my Grandmother was the Office Manager for the cemetery. She wrote the History of the Cemetery in 1952, that you read on the Locust Hill Cemetery web page. I can assure you that the cemetery was very well maintained when John E.(Slick)Gaiser was the Superintendent, and if there were problems with tumble headstones, they were corrected immediately, the grass was mowed and trimmed (and not with gasoline weed trimmers or zero radius turn mowers)and the now, long gone ponds at the cemetery were cleaned of cattails. It was very peaceful and pretty.

    • So, let me get this straight… You’re comparing a gravesite of a loved one or fellow neighbor to a pot hole in the street?

      I think the idea of citizens, not just family members, should ALL pitch in to better a public place when they go to it. We all assume that responsibility when we go to a camp site or a National Park, why not a cemetery? Any time I’ve ever visited a cemetery, I take the time to pick up trash I see, or right a fallen headstone. That’s just common courtesy. Obviously, the mowing is another matter, and ideally it should be done by either private volunteers in a private foundation or hired out with the funds generated from selling the gravesites.

      Pardon me if I don’t share in the assertion that this kind of activity is best handled by government. I just don’t think that is the case.

      Now, if taxes are being appropriated for that purpose and it’s not being carried out, that’s another matter, but all I’m saying is we shouldn’t be so quick to assume politicians or municipal workers should get the praise or blame for the state of a cemetery.

      • I like the idea of work release inmates helping out too.

        They might also employ people from the homeless shelter for a reasonable wage. But I don’t think the default responsibility should be on city government. It’s on the citizens. To me, if a cemetery is in disrepair, that reflects on the CITIZENS more than the government.

        • At one time the did use people who had community service as part of their sentence to help maintain the cemeteries but that required effort from the superintendent to be there on weekends to direct their labor. And remember, the current superintendent is a Weinzapfel retread who hasn’t done his job in years. When we bought cemetery plots in Oak Hill cemetery we paid for perpetual care, which I would hope would include maintenance of any grave markers. Had I known it wouldn’t we would have bought in a private cemetery.

          • JailBird isnt that what Jbird means? You appear to have “inside” information on persons convicted working on Cemetarys must be from experience I am assuming (I am using your community service admission here). Have you went to a City Council Meeting to pose this question? I would if I were you as you seem so quick to assign blame on a person and job in which none of us has done. Like, whats the Liability of having non bonded workers doing volunteer work of City Property? Maybe that’s why convicts dont work for public and private propertys. Just a guess here but a logical one I think. What part of this Superintendants job has he not been doing? Explain please? I get so sick of people on these blogs blaming and assuming what they dont know or have any experience with. I made a phone call asking what perputal care entailed and after that it was easy to conclude logically that these cemetary workers do their jobs with such care for famlies. The person I spoke with said their job was about families but this person also said people after years dont visit graves and the cemetarys do their best to upkeep vacated plots. Stop defaming others when you dont have information or arent willing to make phone calls to educate yourself. Why dont you ask if Oakhill or Locust has replaced grave markers in the past? Ones that have been weathered and not taken care of by famalies? You may be suprised by the answer? Maybe ask what monies are allocated to this in the budget? Another good question should you decide to call there and ask.

          • used to be an employee of the safe house in the early 80s, I took community service types out ther to do work. Jbird refers to my name. They would weed eat and rake leaves and pick up trash. btw I also support Gail

          • You should have gotten a contract with your Bill of Sale on the cemetery plot stating the obligations of maintenance. If they indeed exist, I’d have to expect that family members of deceased persons whose loved ones’ graves are allowed to decay would have a breach of contract lawsuit.

            Maybe that would be the correct course of action here, but I’ll repeat my assertion that I don’t think this is a business government should be in. A private cemetery would be a better option, but even in that case, it’s still up to families and visitors to pitch in by leaving the place better than they found it when visiting.

            That is just a cultural thing that needs to be the norm.

  6. Ever since Chris Cooke’s been superintendent of the city’s cemetaries, the gates have been left open at Oak Hill (I know) despite repeated protests and signs on the gates that the cemetary had specific hours. I don’t think he likes to give up his Little Debbie snack cake hours to go over and close the gates. I don’t know about Locust Hill, but Oak Hill is in the middle of Tweekerville, and it’s a good thing those folks are dead, because it wouldn’t be safe there for them at night otherwise-and if the stones are stolen, broken or desecrated-the city IS responsible because they put up 6 ft brick walls and wrought iron fences to keep the tuttifruities out of there at night-back when RESPECTFUL people were in charge. My folks are there, and they have a modest stone, with a vase-do I have to plant out there to keep watch? I thought “perpetual care” meant someone PAID to do so would at least lock up at night.

    • Well (Mr Bootsie) I find it SAD that you would Personally Attack a Hard Working person whom is a public servant! Superintendants for Municipalities do so at the beheadst of those over them! If they need funding for Lawn Mowing as they did this year ( I believe it happened this year if not it was a former year) due to a mild winter, they have to ask that monies be put into accounts for such maintenance from Elected Officials. Mr Cooke if a great example of a hard working Superintendant. How do I know this, I unlike you I ask. We both (I am speaking about you Mr Bootsie) attend many local gatherings where elected and appointed officials are in attendance. Mr Cooke is highly respected by his Counterparts. As far as letting OakHill go……that hasnt happened at all. If a tombstone is overly weathered that isnt Oakhills fault. Families, not Cemetarys purchase Grave Markers therfore if one is showing weather and crumbling it is the families responsibility to replace it. I asked what Perpetual Care means and was told the following: ( I asked this from a privately owned Cemetary to elicit an unbiased answer), it covers lawn mowing, walk and driveway upkeep including snow removal, salting of roadways and walkways, salarys, mortgages (just because ppty is owned doesnt mean there isnt a loan of said ppty),insurance of ppty and vehicles and equipment, water and electric/gas, equipment upkeep including purchasing new equipment as it wears out over time, mowing, private companys which do at times different projects to keep cemetary current in such things as electical lines and etc, purchase of chemicals as many cemtarys have lakes which copious amts of bacteria grow at alarming rates in warmer weather, Pest Control for grounds ie) animals that burrow into the ground, and much more as I could go on. Let me ask you something, many grave markers have urns for flowers that are attached to the stones if we are to go along with your way of thinking then is the cemetary responsible to put flowers in each urn if the family fails to do this? No, the answer is no because “each family” is responsible for the Stone that they purchased. I was told when I posed this question to a privately owned company that workers regularly tidy up a missaligned stone if need be or pick up pebbles from a dilapidated stone. But lets face it and look at it from a Real Estate Perspective, when we purchase these plots we are purshasing a small piece of real estate for our loved ones and we, due to perpetual care pay for lawn maintenance. We dont pay for the cemetary to re-purchase a grave marker 40 years down the road. I drive through Oakhill often due to a family member being buried there and I cant think of one marker that looks like its been run over as said by others in this blog and the one in the courierpress. Lastly, if the gate is open I am sure that there is a good reason for this. Many Cemetarys are ungated and dont have enormous walls around them, what of this? How is vandalism stopped at them I ask? Isnt Locust without brick walls? And next time you want to make fun of someone using that Little Debbie line go and look in the mirror as I think you have spent way too much time junking it in past years to say such a thing. Low blow dude Mr Bootsie!

  7. I believe the cemetery workers are teamsters and have in their contract that if any volunteers replace them in working on City property they actually get paid for the time donated… Is Todd Robertson suggesting that care of grave markers in the City cemetery are outside the Union contract…. what would Chuck say about that?

  8. After scanning the comments above it is obvious that this merits the Mayor’s personal attention, as it is obviously a problem that has to be resolved, and he has the clout to assign the people to this mess who will clean it up.

  9. How about the Mayor scheduling his next “Mayors Traveling City Hall” meeting at at “OAK Hill” cemetery.

    As far as this Chris Cooke fellow,it is well known he got his job at “Oak Hill” cemetery because of political connections, not because he was qualified for this position! Enough said!

  10. Wasn’t Chris Cooke the Democratic party 3rd Ward leader a big supporter of the new Republican Mayor? Oh, I get it, this is how he got his job at Oak Hill.

    • Yes and no: 2nd Ward Leader, and was appointed to cemetery job by previous mayor. Your 33.3% correct attempt earns you an F.

  11. Wrong answer man–Chris Cooke was re-appointed by new Mayor when he took office.

    He is a Democratic party leader in 2nd Ward. Was appointed by past Mayor and re-appointed to this position by new Mayor (a Republican)!

    • Retained, re-appointed, reenlisted, is, was, will be, whatever. You get the same grade as EIE – F for lack of creative effort.


  13. Crypt Cook’s defenders sound very much like the writing style of Weinzapfel’s minister of propaganda.

  14. The Oak Hill cemetary gate should be locked each night by the Crypt Keeper or by the Crypt Keeper’s designee.

    Otherwise, fire ’em all!

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