Tuesday, October 21, 2014 • 08:15
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Cemetery district's purchase of land will extend its mission for many years



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Cemetery district board and employees. From left, Hank Weldon, director; Donna Weldon, bookkeeper, Louise Kelly, board president, Jeff Haack, superintendent Claudia Johnson, director and George Martin, director. Not shown is director Gunnar Hanson. The group is sitting in the district's "board room."
August 14, 2013
The Valley Center Cemetery District is near to completing its purchase of about an acre north of to the existing Valley Center Cemetery on Miller Road. The purchase will be added to the current cemetery of 2.5 acres.

"We were running out of space, so we had to do something," said board President Louise Kelly last week.

The cemetery has been operated by a board of directors since 1883, when the first person officially buried there was a woman named Silence Dinwiddie.

However, it was probably an unofficial burying place for many years before that.

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Valley Center Cemetery District
Other historically important "residents" include Jennie Wimmer, identified by history as assaying the first gold nugget found in the California Gold Rush of 1849-50; and "Betty Crocker," whose real name was Agnes White, a home economist who, in 1924, became the first Betty Crocker as the original host of "The Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air," America's first cooking show.

Four Civil War veterans are buried there, as well as veterans of all of America's wars since.

The purchase of the land for $85,000 from Herb Schaffer and Weston Enterprises will enable to district to continue functioning well into this century and probably beyond. Most of the money for the purchase was in the bank as the tiny district had been saving up for decades.

However, it also needed to obtain a loan for a matching amount in order to be able to develop the property.

Not develop in the sense of building homes, but for a new entrance and road to service it, permits, the removal of trees and the addition of fencing. A new cemetery office will also be added.

Currently there are about 3,000 graves on the property, plus 500 cremains in the Columbarium. This new activity may be the most the district has engaged in many years.

That's the opinion of longtime cemetery bookkeeper Donna Weldon, who told The Roadrunner, "I've been doing the books for twenty-five years and this board has accomplished more than any other board."

The current entrance to the cemetery is located on a nearly blind stretch of Miller Road, so one aspect of the project will be to move the entrance to in front of the new acquisition.

The cemetery is always looking for help to keep things spiffy. Every year the LDS Church's Honoring the Ancestors group comes in to weed and clean up. Eagles Scouts frequently do projects to benefit the cemetery.

Director George Martin adds, "We would love to get cash donations to help us fix the front of the property and other improvements." The board doesn't have a grant writer on staff, so if anyone has that talent, the board wants to hand you a shovel—figuratively speaking, anyway.

According to the board for several years they have resisted a takeover attempt by the North County Cemetery District, which tried to persuade them to let it absorb the district, whose boundaries extend from Rancho Guejito to Riverside County and encompass 234 square miles.

The acquisition will probably nip the takeover attempt in the bud, and ensure the viability of the district for the next century.

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