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Onalaska Cemetery near completion

Onalaska Cemetery near completion

ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) - Many people see cemeteries as a somber place with little effect on their local community, but one local woman is hoping to change that.

The Onalaska Cemetery wouldn't be where it is today if it wasn't for the Onalaska Cemetery Committee. Renovations for the cemetery have been in the works for a few months now and the cemetery is almost completely finished.

But to help with the finishing touches, the committee held a fundraiser Saturday in hopes to meet its long-lasting goal of keeping the community together, even after lives are lost.

When Lois Riniker's dad was a care taker in the 30s, she spent most of her time with him at the Onalaska Cemetery, pulling weeds and watering plants.

Today, not much has changed. But the cemetery has a new brand new look.

"I'll be buried out there! I hope it won't be for a while but I'll be there someday!"

Two years ago, Riniker created the Onalaska Cemetery Committee to improve the city's cemetery on Main Street. And while a lot has been done, there is still some work to do.

"We have an arch to put up yet over the drive-in entrance, we have a sprinkling system that has to be installed yet, and that goes along with the landscaping, flowers, plants and trees," said Riniker.

For her, the improvements mean a lot more than just a few enhancements.

"Family being there, it just shows we care about them," she said.

With aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins, the cemetery holds some of the most special people in her life. And she wants to honor them in the best way she knows how.

"We have a selling auction, we have the jewelry that Scott Bjorke has designed we're giving that away with donations and we have a raffle going on with some hand-painted wine glasses," she said.

With 160,000 dollars already donated to the cemetery, it's clear the community supports the cause behind the fundraiser.

"This is where our ancestors are this is where our families will be and on top of that the cemetery had really just become very dilapidated and was kind of, I don't want to say was an eye source in the city, but it's in a pretty prominent space and it just really needed some upgrading, it needed some beautification," said Joyce Diveley, a member of Centering Onalaska.

"It's all part of who we are here, it's our heritage, that is our mothers, fathers, our brothers our sisters, our sons and daughters that are in that cemetery, it's a sense of pride," said Patrick Clements, president of Centering Onalaska.

While they may be paying their respects to those who have already passed on, they're planting seeds by their names, to keep the cemetery filled with life.

The Onalaska Cemetery Committee is hoping to raise as much money as they can to complete the cemetery's brand new look.

About 16 area-artists have donated their artwork for bidding along with hand-crafted jewelry.

The committee is expecting to complete the final touches on the cemetery in the next few months.

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