Grand Enterprise Initiative: How a cemetery is good for the local economy

Patrick Brower, Large Enterprise Initiative
Patrick Brower/Large Company Initiative

I was surprised and at first dismayed at the number of times I was asked about Granby Cemetery over the summer.

The questions were like, “Who do I contact to find a place to bury my loved one?” Or, simply, “What’s going on with Granby Cemetery?”

And along the lines of commerce and our economy, some longtime former residents were asking local hoteliers what they can do to, well, be buried in Granby Cemetery. People didn’t know where to start.

Ever since Nancy Stuart died, I didn’t know where to send them except to Teresa Clark, who’s been doing a good job keeping things in order ever since.

As many may remember, Nancy Stuart of Granby, a former county commissioner and advocate for the local community of the highest caliber, was in charge of the Granby Cemetery Association. This association was created a long time ago to look after and manage Granby Cemetery. Starting in 2007, she started to put the cemeteries association and the cemetery in good condition. She filed a request to establish it as a non-profit organization and created a board.

In 1941, George Meyer, a farmer east of Granby, transferred about 3 acres of land to the Granby Cemetery Association for the price of $1. The land is located off County Road 60, about 2.5 miles to the east. from Granby. Those who are curious can leave Granby on County Road 60 and after passing the gravel and some houses, look to the right at the foot of a hill. There is a sign and a portal that marks the short path to the cemetery.

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That sign, that portal, and the reconstructed lookout at the cemetery were all part of the work that Nancy Stuart did to improve Granby Cemetery. I know that she worked for many years in silence and behind the scenes with Teresa to protect and maintain this sometimes underrated community asset.

There is now a real effort underway to re-establish the Granby Cemetery Association and make it and the cemetery something that people in the community can count on for burials and a place for our dead. You could tell they are bringing it back to life.

Granby’s attorney, Frank Parker, has taken on the task of clarifying the legalities and is in the process of forming a board of directors for the association. He is doing this without charging any fees. Parker reports that he nearly filled the frame. Once the plaque is in place then he can begin the process of managing the cemetery and bringing it back to good condition. Then people will have a way of figuring out how to use the cemetery for its intended purpose.

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Now, with the help of Mountain Family Center volunteers, an effort is starting to clean up a map of the cemetery and clear out parts of it that haven’t been kept in a long time.

I’ve always liked Granby Cemetery. It’s far enough away from the city that a person can really feel like they’re in the countryside while they’re there. It sits on an east-facing slope that captures the morning sunrise and offers great views of the hills, mountains, and valleys to the east.

I well remember the time I was escorted through Granby Cemetery in 1984 or 1985 by Vern Birdsill. He was at the Granby Cemetery Association at the time and I was researching a story about Granby Cemetery. Birdsill was a former Marshal of the town of Granby and a longtime local. He had a gentle, wise disposition that made it difficult for me to imagine him as the Marshal of the City of Granby, and yet many seniors I knew told me that he handled law enforcement in Granby with Solomon’s wisdom. He wanted to show me the plot of land in the cemetery that he had set aside for himself when, as he said, “my time has come.”

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His grave was not a rectangular plot of manicured blue Kentucky grass on an extension of other graves. Instead, it was a purposefully unmaintained patch of land with long strands of grass growing in abundance, a small juniper bush, and two fluttering aspens framing the view. The terrain was sloping to the northeast. He stood up, smiling reflectively at his future burial place, and said, “I love the view and that warm morning sun.”

That was the meaning of Granby Cemetery to Vern Birdsill, and the comfort he felt in knowing he had that particular place as a burial place.

With the new efforts underway, the community can begin to feel that solace as well.

Patrick Brower is the Business Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management training for anyone looking to start or expand a business in Grand County. He is also the author of the book “KILLDOZER: The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage”. He can be reached at 970-531-0632 or [email protected].

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