By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN By the early 1900s, the young city of Winsted had electric lights, a telephone line, and yes, even its own cemetery.
“Back then, a plot sold for $5,” said Winsted’s Gordon Kubasch.
Today, more than 350 gravesites are sprinkled throughout the Winsted Public Cemetery, located on 6th St. N (the north side of the Holy Trinity cemetery).
Two of the longest-serving cemetery board volunteers are Gordon (as president), and Doris Menden (as secretary/treasurer).
Both retired recently, and Gordon’s son, Aaron, has taken over as president. Aaron’s wife, Patricia, is the new secretary/treasurer, and Winsted resident Glen Weibel is serving as vice president.
“I enjoyed it,” said Gordon, 83, of his time on the cemetery board. “I’d go out there a couple times each week to pick up sticks and just check on things.”
Doris also found the work rewarding.
“I love math, so I always liked treasurer positions,” said Doris, who has also served as treasurer for the Ladies Guild at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Winsted the past 35 years.
Both Doris and Gordon got started on the cemetery board through personal tragedies.
In Gordon’s case, he and his wife, Lenora, had a stillborn child in 1973. As a plot owner, Gordon was asked to attend a board meeting.
“My father was Herb Kubasch,” Gordon said, explaining that his dad was first elected as a cemetery board director in 1955.
Doris’s involvement began five years after her son, Derald, was killed in a car accident.
“Thirty years ago, I was approached by Glen Gatz, who asked me to take the position of treasurer/secretary,” Doris noted. “At that time, I felt this was an honor to fill this position in [Derald’s] memory, to give back to this community.”
The Winsted Public Cemetery was founded in 1910, but the first recorded burial took place in 1907, for 72-year-old Carolina Luke.
The name, age, birthplace, and cause of death (if known) for each person buried at the cemetery are hand-recorded in an old record book.
Two well-known people on the list include Winsted’s first mayor, Felton Vollmer, and attorney Ira Lewis, who was the village recorder.
The grave of civil war veteran William May is also located in the Winsted Public Cemetery. May, who lived from 1826-1894, was awarded the Medal of Honor for capturing the flag of the Louisiana Bouanchaud Battery at the Battle of Nashville Dec. 16, 1864.
In addition to new headstones being added, many changes took place at the cemetery throughout the years.
The cement memorial stand and flagpole, for example, were erected in May 1963.
“They were strategically placed halfway between the Holy Trinity Cemetery and the public cemetery,” Gordon said, explaining that they are shared by both entities.
Another improvement project took place in 2003 blacktopping of the cemetery road.
Lawn mowing, tree planting, and tree trimming and other maintenance have been ongoing through the years.
“In the spring, I’d go out and sprinkle grass seed,” Gordon added.
Gordon was also responsible for staking out gravesites. In the wintertime, equipment with a sharp, thick metal tooth is used to break up frozen soil.
Years ago, however, winter burials were somewhat time consuming.
“They’d have to start a fire and burn the ground, so it would be soft enough to shovel,” Gordon said.
Doris Menden was the longest serving secretary/treasurer of the Winsted Public Cemetery. All secretary/treasurers’ years of service are as follows:
• 1930-1942: Theo Gahl
• 1942-1945: Henry Weinbeck
• 1945-1954: C.R. Vollmer
• 1955-1969: Paul Weibel
• 1969-1975: Agnes Hahn • 1975-1982: Marilyn Gatz
• 1982-2012: Doris Menden