Don’t be frightened of the cemetery

Cary Peterson checks on young trees planted in the new section of the cemetery. Plans for the section include a columbarium, scatter garden and memorial wall. - Jennifer Conway
Cary Peterson checks on young trees planted in the new section of the cemetery. Plans for the section include a columbarium, scatter garden and memorial wall.
— image credit: Jennifer Conway

Approximately 800 people could move into Langley at any time — no annexations needed. They just need to meet one condition — they must be deceased.

Recent improvements to the Langley Woodmen Cemetery on Al Anderson Avenue have made room for approximately 800 more graves. The work is part of a cemetery improvement effort that has been making changes at the cemetery for the past eight years.

Cary Peterson, a member of the Langley Cemetery Board and the Friends of the Langley Woodmen Cemetery Board, spearheaded efforts to keep the cemetery owned by the city after it went up for sale in 1995. About $22,000 in debt then, the Friends started an endowment fund and volunteered their time to manage upkeep. Plot prices were raised from $250 to $550, and money raised from plot sales slowly began to fill up the endowment fund.

“We just wanted to keep it a community cemetery,” said Peterson.

In making room for an additional 800 plots, Peterson said three undeveloped acres were cleared of scrub brush in the last few years and planted with young trees. The old section of the cemetery is also three acres.

The most recent plans for the future could allow anyone who wishes to have a final resting place in the cemetery.

A columbarium — a structure of vaults lined with recesses for cremation urns — will have spaces for about 100 cremains, according to Peterson.

Also in the design phase is a scatter garden, where family and friends could spread the cremains of their deceased. A memorial wall will also be constructed near the scatter garden, for friends and family to memorialize their loved ones on a special plaque. The plaques — much like tombstones — will be a record of South Whidbey’s history by memorializing the people who’s ashes are spread throughout the garden.

“We want to give people the option to be creative,” said Peterson.

Both the columbarium and the scatter garden will be part of the new section, against the existing trees near the back of the cemetery. Columbariums and scatter gardens offer people an alternative to traditional burial, and gives people a special place to return year after year to remember the deceased.

“Everybody has different things they like,” said Peterson. “What we’re creating is a sacred space.”

Next on the agenda for the cemetery is raising funds to pay for the construction of the columbarium, scatter garden and memorial wall.

“The more money we get the faster we can do it,” Peterson said.

She said through fundraising and a possible loan through the city of Langley, their plans can continue. Benches or trees purchased in memory of people’s loved ones will be part of the fundraiser to continue the project.

“If you have beautiful public places you need the money to maintain it,” said Peterson. “It’s a long-term investment to keep it a beautiful place.”


Check it out

View the improvements to the Langley Woodmen Cemetery Saturday during All Souls’ Eve. From 5 to 8:30 p.m. the Langley Woodmen Cemetery — and the Bayview Cemetery — will be lit with luminaries to remember Whidbey Island pioneers and deceased loved ones. For more information call 221-6046 or 321-5494. For more information on the Langley Woodmen Cemetery, call the city of Langley at 221-4246.

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