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

Patrick Brower, Grand Enterprise Initiative
Patrick Brower/Grand Enterprise Initiative

I was surprised and initially dismayed at how many times I was asked about Granby Cemetery during the summer.

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

And alongside trade and our economy, some former longtime locals asked local hoteliers what they could do to be buried in Granby Cemetery. People didn’t know where to start.

Ever since Nancy Stuart passed I haven’t known where to send her other than to Teresa Clark who has done a good job of keeping things together ever since.

As many may recall, Nancy Stuart of Granby, a former District Commissioner and local community advocate at the highest level, was in charge of the Granby Cemetery Association. This association was formed long ago to care for and administer Granby Cemetery. From 2007 she began to bring the cemetery association and the cemetery into shape. She applied for incorporation as a non-profit organization and set up a board of directors.

In 1941 George Meyer, a rancher east of Granby, donated about 3 acres of land to the Granby Cemetery Association for a price of $1. The land is just off County Road 60 about 2.5 miles east of Granby. Those curious can drive out of Granby on County Road 60 and, after passing the gravel pit and some houses, look to the right at the foot of a hill. There is a sign and portal marking the short route to the cemetery.

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This sign, this portal and the rebuilt pavilion in the cemetery were all part of the work Nancy Stuart did to improve Granby Cemetery. I know that for many years she worked quietly and behind the scenes with Teresa to protect and preserve this sometimes undervalued commons.

There is now a major effort to rebuild the Granby Cemetery Association and make it and the cemetery something that people in the community can rely on for burials and a place for our dead. You could say they bring it back to life.

Granby lawyer Frank Parker has taken on the task of sorting out the legal aspects and is in the process of forming a board for the association. He does this without charging any fees. Parker reports that he almost filled the board. Once the plaque is in place, the process of managing the cemetery and restoring it to good condition can begin. Then people have a chance to figure out how to use the cemetery for its intended purpose.

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Now, with the help of volunteers at the Mountain Family Center, work is beginning to map the cemetery and clean up parts of it that have not been cared for in a long time.

I’ve always liked Granby Cemetery. It is far enough away from the city that a person can really feel like they are in the country while there. It is situated on an east facing hill catching the early morning sunrise and offering excellent views of the hills, mountains and valleys to the east.

I remember well the time I was being shown around Granby Cemetery by Vern Birdsill in 1984 or 1985. He was a member of the Granby Cemetery Association at the time and I was researching a story about Granby Cemetery. Birdsill was a former town marshal of Granby and a longtime local. He had a kind and wise manner that made it difficult for me to imagine him as the town marshal of Granby, and yet many old hands I knew told me that he handled the enforcement of the law in Granby with the wisdom of Solomon. He wanted to show me the plot of land in the cemetery that he had set aside for himself when, as he put it, “my time comes.”

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His grave site was not a rectangular lot of manicured Kentucky bluegrass in a vast expanse of other graves. Rather, it was a deliberately unkempt piece of land with long, lush growing shrubs, a small juniper bush, and two fluttering aspens framing the view. The property sloped to the northeast. Standing at his future burial site with a thoughtful smile, he said, “I love the view and this warm morning sun.”

Such was the importance of Granby Cemetery to Vern Birdsill and the comfort he found in knowing that he had this special place to burial.

With the new efforts, the community can also feel this comfort.

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

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