By Jen Bakken
Deacon Joe Kittok, a man who is known for strong Catholic faith, or possibly his recognizable beard, could just as well be known for his dedication to preserving a piece of history St. Peter’s Catholic Cemetery.
Located west of Delano on 72nd Street, the property was the burial place for the 2-year-old son of early settler Joseph Matter.
Eventually, the first St. Peter’s Catholic Church was built near this burial site, with its first service taking place March, 18 1866.
Though the church was torn down years later when the new St. Peter’s Catholic Church was built in town, the bell tower remained on the property until 1931. Presently, the cemetery does not have an identifying sign, and this is just one of the goals Kittok has for the cemetery.
Kittok and his wife, Janice, own Jan’s Lawn and Landscape, specializing in cemetery maintenance. Kittok also works as a grave digger and creates maps for cemeteries. The couple has three adult sons, Joe, John, and Jacob.
“I’m also working on Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Watertown,” said Deacon Joe Kittok.
The reason for his desire to preserve St. Peter’s Catholic Cemetery is simple to him.
“I noticed the terrible shape markers and monuments were in,” Kittok said. “I have relatives buried there. It’s all about our heritage and our ancestors.”
A metal sweep was performed on the property, but nothing of significance was located. Kittok has been working on filling in sunken holes and straightening grave stones, but more work is needed. Many graves are unmarked, and with the help of old newspaper obituaries and Delano resident Charles Rieland, attempts are being made to remember the forgotten.
Those who had lived in the area were buried in a row, and often spouses were not buried next to each other, which is different from how it is done today.
When St. Peter’s Calvary Cemetery was created on Wright County Road 17, some residents moved their beloved family members from the old cemetery to this new one. This has created some difficulty in putting names to the unmarked graves in the old cemetery.
If one walks along the hill that is St. Peter’s Cemetery, one notices many familiar Delano names such as Matter, Stein, Muckinhirn, Bauman, Yantes, and Schaust.
“That land was part of my great grandfather’s farm,” commented Clarence “Buzz” Matter. “His sons were buried there, and he donated it. It’s a beautiful cemetery.”
A wide-line spiral notebook holds the hand-printed inventory Kittok has taken of the cemetery. This inventory helped him create a map of the burial grounds.
Though progress has been made to improve this piece of Delano history, there is work yet to be done, and more volunteers are welcome. Donations are also being accepted.
For more information on volunteering or making a donation, contact Deacon Joe Kittok at (763) 221-6658.