Members of Williston’s three-person Cemetery Commission are in desperate need of two more volunteers to serve on the board. The board’s search for new members, which has been ongoing since spring, has proved nearly fruitless.
Normally, five commissioners are appointed by the Selectboard, and they would serve staggered five-year terms, but currently the board has been struggling to get by with just three appointees — Hazel Winter, Bea Harvey and Don Thurston.
Harvey, who has been on the commission for many years, said the work is perfect for a retiree or senior who has extra time in his or her schedule, and who can understand and empathize with the situation loved ones find themselves in when a parent or family member has passed.
“You have to kind of place yourself where that person is at the time,” said Harvey. “One person may be all about what their parents want, and do and expect and others are ‘What do I do?’” she said. “The funeral directors are very good at this, but you just have to sympathize with people. You have to talk to them and let them do things at their own speed,” she said.
Volunteer commissioners are responsible for overseeing the care and management of the town’s four cemeteries — Morse, Thomas Chittenden, East and Deer View cemeteries, and they help families choose or lay out the burial in chosen plots, oversee burial arrangements and obtain needed documents for the burial. In recent months, the board has had to also deal with the cutting down and disassembly of a 150-year-old tree in East Cemetery, and will be making decisions about how to use an endowment that was left in a will to the commission for care of the cemeteries.
The money might be used for cleaning and restoration of grave markers, but could go to other uses with more input from the community, Commissioner Don Thurston said.
Thurston, who only joined the commission in the past year, said he felt drawn to help out, and found the volunteering to be very rewarding.
“I like all aspects of it,” said Thurston. “I have an engineering background, and I like that part of it. I like the physical aspect of the cemeteries. And my mom passed away last year, so you just feel like it’s your mother or your father. You have to have that respect,” he said.
The board meets once a month, and invites any potential members to contact an existing commissioner, Don Thurston at 863-5951, Beatrice Harvey at 878 4281, or Hazel Winter at 879-0897.