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Cemetery makes room for 800 more

"There's much more room now in Langley Woodmen Cemetery, but not because any of its residents have moved out.Langley Mayor Lloyd Furman presided at a brief ceremony Wednesday acknowledging the opening of an additional three acres, doubling the size of the city-owned site on Al Anderson Avenue. A gold ribbon was held up and Furman made the ceremonial snip to open the approximately 800 new gravesites.Furman congratulated Cemetery Board members and others who have volunteered their time to maintain the grounds and raise money for maintenance equipment.Recalling that the city tried to sell the cemetery land in 1995, when the cemetery fund was in debt, Furman said four people came to him then with a proposal: They would do the maintenance if the city would take the land off the market. Those four were Cary Peterson, Helen Bjerum, Michelle LaRue and Gretchen Lawlor. This group formed the nucleus of what saved the cemetery, Furman said.They created a nonprofit group called Friends of the Langley Cemetery, which conducted numerous fund-raising activities and used some of the money for a lawnmower. Furman said the Friends group also updated the guidelines for the cemetery, built a kiosk, and purchased trees that have been planted in the new section, formerly a meadow. The young trees are 6 to 8 feet tall and include a dogwood, linden, yellowwood and white birch.The Friends group was the impetus for the turnaround in the city's Cemetery Fund, which was $22,000 in debt in 1995 and now has a positive balance of $48,000. Some of that also is due to the city raising the price for plots from $250 to $450. That price was increased to $550 in December 2000. The addition has been surveyed and plots in it are are being sold, Furman said. There are about 1,100 people buried at Langley Woodmen's Cemetery. The oldest cemetery on South Whidbey, it was founded in 1902 by the Woodmen's Lodge, and was given to the city in 1913 after the lodge incorporated. A cemetery opened in Clinton in 1904, and Bayview Cemetery opened in 1905. "

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