Rancho Cordova Restores Historic Cemetery
After a one million dollar restoration, the long neglected Matthew Kilgore cemetery is now a place of peace for the families who have loved ones buried there.
(Rancho Cordova, CA)
Saturday, May 19, 2007
When 92 year old Betty Kennedy of Sacramento came to put holly on the graves of her relatives two Christmases ago, she was stunned by what she saw:
You could tell all the headstones were down or smashed, and all the trash around. It was just really a shame. No respect for the cemetery at all.
To say the private owners of the cemetery hadn’t kept it up is an understatement. When Kennedy located her grandfather’s grave she found a shocking scene.
We just couldn’t keep the vandals out. Even my grandfather…huh…they dug up his grave and took his skull.
Kennedy, a former resident of Rancho Cordova, says, this was not how a cemetery was supposed to be:
When I used to come with my mother and put flowers out on the two graves, why she would say, you don’t step on the grave. In those days, it was just really respectful.
When Rancho Cordova became a city in 2003, officials made it a priority to restore the cemetery. Founders of the region were buried there and the cemetery had already been designated a historical site. Public works director Cyrus Abhar says the restoration effort was painstaking:
We had to bring in an archeologist on board to help us with designing the project, and also with making sure that the dignity and respect that the cemetery deserves and the remains deserve was maintained during construction.
The entire cemetery was in such disrepair and so many headstones were missing, radar equipment had to be used to locate gravesites.
But now that the restoration is complete, a fence has been installed to keep out vandals. And a security patrol keeps watch over the place.
Betty Kennedy walks through the cemetery, marveling at the newly planted trees and the lush green grass that’s replaced an overgrowth of weeds. She stops to point out the headstones which mark her family’s graves:
I’m so happy to see everything so beautiful. I just had no idea, it was going to look like this.
City Council member Robert McGarvey says, that’s how it should be:
You have an opportunity to walk into history. This is one of the historical spots left in Rancho Cordova. Plus you’ve got the respect that any cemetery should be given. But it’s only right you know.
There’s more work to be done to bring new life to the old cemetery.
Sixty headstones are still missing. Some were taken by family members for safe keeping.
Rancho Cordova officials are hoping they’ll now feel secure enough to bring them back.