Letter To The Editor By Jordan Baer-Thanks To Oak Hill/Locust Hill Cemetery Staff For Meeting With Me



cco cooke

Posted by the City County Observer without  bias, opinion or editing

I would like to extend a warm thank you to Mr. Chris Cooke, Superintendent of Cemeteries for the city of Evansville, to Becky Zoch, Assistant Superintendent of Cemeteries, and to Todd Robertson, Executive Director of the Department of Transportation and Services. From the moment I arrived last Thursday at 10 am, they welcomed me in with great Evansville hospitality, they listened to my concerns and thoughts, and Chris went over many tasks and projects he is currently undertaking to make both cemeteries the place we are all so proud to say is a part of our community and our rich heritage and history.

Although I was unable to attend the previous cook out due to the extenuating legal mess from another city official, Chris still made sure to take time out of his busy schedule to meet with me this week. He also addressed every single topic that has been brought up lately with regards to the challenges and opportunities that he faces day in and day out as superintendent of these cemeteries.

Before I dive into the many issues we discussed at the meeting, I would first like to thank Chris and Todd for coming to last week’s city council meeting. Although it’s been played off as me vs Mr. Cooke by other media outlets, this notion is just not true. I am very thankful that he exercised his freedom of speech rights to take a stand and tell us what he is doing to care for our two city cemeteries. I also believe that Chris is one of the few people in this town that takes issues like this with the same fire, passion, and intensity that I do. I certainly would not have gone in front of the council these past two years to get additional funding for these cemeteries if I did not believe in the vision Mr. Cooke is trying to set for these two iconic grounds.

With regards to the city council meeting itself, I would like to thank the council for giving a much better effort this year than the previous year to genuinely take the cemetery issue seriously. The battle against Father Time and Mother Nature at our cemeteries is something that I personally value more than building roads BACK at future uninspiring dog parks as well as building a hotel BACK on the same lots where a privately constructed one once stood. For those who don’t believe that giving Mr. Cooke a measly $35,000 a year for each cemetery is worth it, I encourage you to stop by his office and let him show you the sections that were just revamped with these funds.

Also, as someone that strives to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, I want to make a correction to that video that I released last week. In the video, I focused on showing areas that needed alignment fixes in an attempt to convince the council that allocating the same funds from last year really would make a difference, and that large and expensive damaged headstones are not the only thing I would like to help address at the cemeteries. While doing this, I showed a zig zag formation that appeared to illustrate this problem. However, this lot specifically is designed that way due to the fact that infants were buried in the lot as well

Having sat on a task force that came up with a conclusions page that was never proven to be the belief of the general body of the task force and doesn’t even make sense, I simply do not want to produce a video that I believe is not 100% factual. For this reason, I would like to clarify that the zig zag lot specifically is not one of the alignment sections we need to fix.

With all of that being said, I would like to discuss some of the things that Chris is doing at Oak Hill and Locust Hill cemeteries to correct problems that he inherited on the first day he took office…

One of the projects that has been going on at Oak Hill Cemetery is the overhauling of sections in bunches. The extra funds that were obtained last year have gone into this project. As each section is overhauled, the company performing the task realigns all rows of headstones, fixes any minor damages to headstones, and performs various other clean up tasks to make the sections like new again.

Last year, the section on the middle of Oak Hill directly east across from the cemetery offices was the first to undergo this overhaul. I encourage all residents to take a quick drive to this area to see for themselves how great this lot looks. For this year, Mr. Cooke is focusing on the sections around lot 64, which was in the other part of my video. He says bids are expected to go out in January.

There is one thing I would like to stress to residents about this program, and that is that this will take several years to complete. Patience is extremely important with this program, and I believe any rational person will accept this. Currently, most of the headstones are being repaired with minor corrections but that may not always be the case with future sections and lots. As a result, that may slow down the process of addressing all sections and lots, but it will not stop the process entirely. Therefore, the estimated completion time will remain uncertain for a while. This project will take a while but is certainly worth it.

Next, we talked about the misconception that there are babies buried underneath Buena Vista Road. Mr. Cooke was misunderstood on this issue when he spoke about it. When speaking, he was referring to the fact that asphalt runoff could have seeped into the cemetery from the road, but that when Buena Vista was under construction several years back, Mr. Cooke stood next to the site to make sure there was nothing underneath the exact road layout. Although Chris says the exact locations cannot be determined due to an incomplete map that he was given (he also showed me this map), the babies remains are not directly underneath the road.

Lastly, another topic we talked about was what could we do to keep people interested in our cemeteries. Mr. Cooke has several events planned that I have volunteered to help promote. One of the upcoming events will be Wreaths Across America, which will be on Dec 14th, and will be just one of many upcoming events. Currently, the events calendar is still being laid out. When this calendar is complete, I ask for the support from all residents from all sides of town in helping to get our city out to one or both of our cemeteries.

Looking forward, Chris has several infrastructure and technology upgrades that he is going to be making in the upcoming year. Since they are still in the planning stages, I will not reveal what they are specifically. However, I do want to make one thing clear: After these upgrades are finished, Chris is going to need volunteers by the droves to help implement these wide array of upgrades. Therefore, I will be asking those who said they would be willing to help with our cemeteries over the past year and half I have been discussing the issue for help with implementing these improvements.

I appreciate the down to earth and caring conversation Mr. Chris Cooke had with me last Thursday, and I also appreciate him following up with me after the meeting about the issues and topics we discussed. I also appreciate Mr. Todd Robertson taking time out of his enormously busy schedule to head out to Oak Hill Cemetery from the Civic Center. And, I was also glad to meet Miss Becky Zoch who made me feel proud when she said that she looks at her position as a way of life not just a job and enjoys getting to care for these legendary grounds.

Last week’s meeting was the poster child for Good Public Policy. This is what I and the City-County Observer strive for in the Evansville community.


  1. Kudos to Jordan & Chris for working together to achieve their common goal. My offer for a helping hand stills stands.

  2. Great article and I wish you good luck! I still wish you would have fought back against Weaver though.

  3. Glad to hear there are no bodies under the road. Also glad to hear you guys are talking. This is the way forward. Good for you, Jordan.

  4. I always thought Chris Cooke did as good of a job as he could given the budget.

  5. Thats the problem. The city has not giving Mr. Cooke proper financial support to attack a major problem at our graveyards.

    Oh, thanks CCO for putting Jordan letter in your paper unedited.

    • Exactly! That has been the whole point of this movement since day 1. Other yes man organizations have tried to drum this up to start more political drama (mainly because they feared this would take away from their power and their other projects) but you can read every article I posted on my blog and see that I have been very consistent in not blaming Mr. Cooke for previous problems.

      As for your notion that Winnecke took that photo, puhlease. I’m the last person you will find supporting him. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…

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