Woman keeps cemetery bright
ROGUE RIVER — Despite her own poor health, Rogue River resident Diane Roxbury says she's celebrating the holiday season by providing a service for residents who have passed on.
The recent California transplant, who moved to the Rogue Valley in recent years to care for her ailing mother, honors the memory of hundreds of veterans, babies and former residents interred at the Woodville Cemetery.
She's been cleaning graves and doing trash pickup over the past year.
While unemployed because of health problems and needing to be with her mother, Roxbury says cleaning the gravesites gives her something productive to do and a sense of contributing to her community.
She and her dog, Rover, walk through the cemetery daily, picking up trash, pulling weeds and fixing flower arrangements that have fallen over or blown off gravesites.
"For Christmas last year I cleaned and weeded all the graves and planted bulbs for the summer. I like to go there and just pick up the litter and meet people at their funerals," Roxbury said. "And if they don't live in town, I volunteer to take care of the graves and look after them."
Roxbury says this is the first year that she is asking the community for help. "I just want to make it really nice," she said.
Unemployed and with a host of health issues, Roxbury is unable to buy enough flowers for the nearly 300 gravesites.
She'd like to make sure all graves in the old cemetery have flowers. Flags for veterans would be a plus, as would something special for the graves of babies.
Fred Boettcher, caretaker of the cemetery, said Roxbury's efforts were much appreciated.
"She's been doing it for quite a long time," he said. "She goes in and cleans up the gravesites that are not taken care of. She plants little flowers. She does real good. I've gone by a lot of times and seen her down on her hands and knees cleaning things up. It really makes things look nice."
With or without a big Christmas of her own, Roxbury said meeting her goal would ensure she had a nice holiday.
"This year my mom and I aren't going to have Christmas, so this is part of my celebrating the holidays," she said.
"I feel like, this day and age, so many people don't respect things. They have beer parties and everything in there, throw their trash down. I hope, when people see this, they'll start respecting other things, too. We're supposed to honor and memorialize our dead. This is the way things are supposed to be."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.