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Saturday, February 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Honoring sacrifice, history

Fairfield Cemetery re-dedicating gates

“We’re just a pioneer cemetery,” remarked Fairfield Cemetery Association member Gary Ostheller. “I think I’m related to about half the cemetery,” he said. (J. Bart Rayniak)
“We’re just a pioneer cemetery,” remarked Fairfield Cemetery Association member Gary Ostheller. “I think I’m related to about half the cemetery,” he said. (J. Bart Rayniak)

The Fairfield Cemetery has been spruced up for a planned Memorial Day celebration and historic gate re-dedication on Monday, but Mother Nature has other plans. The rainy forecast has prompted organizers to move the celebration indoors to the Fairfield Community Center.

“We just knew there would be problems parking and with people slipping,” said Fairfield Cemetery Association member Cheryl Fulton Fischer. “We used our backup plan.”

The celebration will be from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Community Center on Main Street. Veterans will be honored and the Fairfield High School class of 1960 has donated 30 small flags to be put on the graves of veterans buried in the five-acre cemetery perched on a hill two miles outside of town.

The event will include a flag-raising ceremony, patriotic music, representatives from the Daughters of the American Revolution and Fairfield Mayor Ed Huber.

The cemetery was opened in 1885 and a set of hand-forged gates were installed soon after. Built to accommodate horse-drawn buggies, the gates were eventually moved to the side. There they stood until a wind and ice storm a few years ago brought them down.

The Cemetery Association worked to raise the $4,600 needed to repair the gates. “It was a community effort,” she said. “I just think it’s really dear that people cared about their history.”

The work on the gates was done by Bob Obernalte, owner of Artistic Metals Forge in Fairfield. “All the scrolls and the lettering on the gate were done by hand originally,” she said. “He didn’t use any welding or anything that wasn’t authentic.”

The gate arch has been reinstalled, but the gates themselves will be at the Community Center for the celebration on Monday. They will be installed later.

The Cemetery Association also recently repaired an equipment shed on the property and put new gravel down on the narrow road that winds through the grounds. The money for the road work was donated by the family of Joe Fulton, who maintained the cemetery for 20 years as a volunteer.

There are about 600 people buried in the cemetery. Most of the stones belonging to the first people buried there are still legible, but some marble stones are pitted and hard to read. Marble was used because it was soft and easily carved, said association member Gary Ostheller. No one is quite sure how to save the stones.

The people who care for the cemetery have ties to it. Fischer has five generations of her family buried there. Ostheller can point to the graves of his father, grandfather, grandmother, great-grandfather, and several other relatives. Maintaining the cemetery is part of his family history. “My grandfather helped maintain it, and then my uncle,” he said, gazing at the trees blowing in the wind and the views of the surrounding farm land. “It’s a beautiful view up here.”

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