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Wauwatosa Cemetery foresees financial turnaround

Plans to sell burial grounds are off table after changes made

Nov. 9, 2011

A year ago, Wauwatosa Cemetery officials were worried they were on the brink of financial insolvency and were looking at selling the burial grounds.

With many new trustees on the board, plans to sell have been scrapped, and a new management company has been hired to operate and maintain the 11-acre property at Wauwatosa Avenue and Wright Street.

"We have a very positive outlook that we're going to maintain that cemetery," said Jim Benz, board president and former Wauwatosa mayor. "We want to preserve it for its historical significance for the city of Wauwatosa."

Tribute Cos. had been managing the site and Benz said they did a fine job - but the cemetery could no longer afford Tribute's services. Instead, Hirschfeld Services will manage the cemetery and the board has entered into a one-year agreement that has the city providing property maintenance services there. Those changes should bring $25,000 in annual savings, Benz said.

In the past, the city has plowed snow from cemetery roads, provided salt and removed dead and diseased trees at no charge. Under the new agreement, the city will also maintain the lawns, Public Works Director Bill Porter said. Money paid to the city will cover the costs of hiring the contractor who already cuts grass and sprays for weeds on street medians throughout Tosa.

The cemetery also has a new flagpole thanks to a donation from Lois Randall, whose husband, Charles Randall, is buried there. The prior pole had been damaged and could no longer be used to fly a flag, Benz said.

The cemetery serves as a source of history and pride for the community, board secretary Sharon Eiff said. Preserving that history is important to many people, and a foundation has been set up to tackle costly projects, such as restoring the chapel, when they are needed.

Many former business and city leaders, soldiers and children who died of diseases at the turn of the century are buried there, among others.

Now, the board is finding a resurgence in interest among people who want to make Wauwatosa Cemetery the final resting place for themselves and their family members, Eiff said.

"It's near and dear to all of our hearts in terms of location," she said, adding that people ultimately want to come home to Wauwatosa.

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