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Finances Haunt Rural Cemetery

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FAIRMONT, Minn. -

The Lakeside cemetery in Fairmont is much like other rural cemeteries dotting the countryside. With the growing popularity of cremation, together with rising upkeep costs, dwindling finances are beginning to haunt the cemetery.

For Lakeside Cemetery manager Chuck Hamsmith, sentiment toward the cemetery runs deeper than any grave he could dig.

"Three generations of my family are buried here," said Hamsmith.

But unfortunately for Hamsmith, even places of eternal rest can become victims of economic hardship.

"We try to do our best to keep it going but money only goes so far," said Hamsmith.

Since 1860, over 15,000 people have been buried in the cemetery, though in recent years, the number has dropped significantly.

"Before everyone had full burials with coffins and the vaults," said Hamsmith.

Over the last 10 years, Hamsmith says the rate of cremation has gone from 3 percent to 50 percent.

"Its $150 cheaper than interim a casket and a lot I people are going that way," said Hamsmith.

Plus as many as four urns can be buried in one grave site and people often wait to bury ashes alongside loved ones.

"This causes and in–continuity in the income because that is what we survive on, the sale of grave sites and the internment of graves," said Hamsmith.

He says when that money isn't coming in, it is hard to keep up with daily costs like lawn care, and cutting the crass here is no easy task.

"It costs us $2,900 to cut the grass of the cemetery from the gate to the lake," said Hamsmith.

With investments not retuning what they used to and large contributions from the community at a halt, Hamsmith say if things stay the way they are, lakeside has just a few years left of funding.

"Three years would be the maximum the cemetery would survive without some help," said Hamsmith.

After that the cemetery would likely be passed on to the state.

"Being out here, we would probably be forgotten about, and this is way too many people to be forgotten," said Hamsmith.

Hamsmith said his biggest fear is that Lakeside will become nothing more than a fence around a weed patch.

"That doesn't look like a resting place or loved ones, and that is what this would become, and that is a pretty sorry picture to paint for anybody," said Hamsmith.

It's a picture he hopes will encourage people do what they can to help keep this place of eternal rest alive.