North Judson Physician Spearheads Pioneer Cemetery Project

Phase 1 of the project involves the restoration of the stone terrace at the north end of Pioneer Cemetery
Phase 1 of the project involves the restoration of the stone terrace at the north end of Pioneer Cemetery

A local physician and his wife are spearheading efforts to restore a once-proud piece of North Judson’s history to its former glory. Dennis and Margaret Dalphond’s beautification efforts at Pioneer Cemetery on Talmer Avenue behind Norwayne Field are actually a continuation of the family legacy. Norwayne Field was a WPA project during the Great Depression, and Margaret’s grandfather, Joseph Pacilio, Sr., helped to build it.

Pioneer Cemetery was constructed on a sand hill more than 200 years ago, as that land was not conducive to farming. Dr. Dalphond says the town council’s decision last year to remove large, dead trees from the cemetery shocked many local residents.

Pioneer Cemetery 3a“Whenever a storm would hit the area, there would be significant tree damage, branches falling down breaking gravestones, knocking them over, the tree roots tilting gravestones. The cemetery itself is owned by the town of North Judson, so it has to maintain it. The cleanup from the tree damage oftentimes amounts to over $1,500. We’re not a wealthy community. We really can’t afford that,” Dalphond said.

He hopes to plant smaller, native species like dogwoods and redbuds in the cemetery and replace the chain link fence that surrounds Pioneer Cemetery with one made from fieldstones. He says that will take several years and quite a bit of expertise. For now he’s focusing on the terraced area across from North Judson United Methodist Church.

“At one time it was quite attractive, but the problem was getting water to the area. They used to have to string a hose across the Methodist Church, across the road and water it that way,” Dalphond said.

“It gradually fell into disrepair. Rather than just let weeds grow there, someone planted alfalfa, which was roundup ready. We’ve managed to kill that with a donation of chemicals and time on the part of a local farmer.”

Dalphond is collecting donated plants to redo the terrace landscaping as well as fieldstones for the project. He’s cleared out a space behind his medical office for donations to be dropped off and stored until they are ready for permanent placement and hopes to plant hostas, day lilies and bulbs along the five-tier terrace.

Pioneer Cemetery 2Right now volunteers are doing the work, but he’s also set up a fund through the Northern Indiana Community Foundation to offset costs of things like an eventual irrigation system. Click and designate your contribution to the Pioneer Cemetery Transformation Fund. All donations are tax deductible.

The next volunteer work day is Sunday, May 15 at 1 p.m. Bring gloves and a shovel and meet across from the North Judson United Methodist Church. Dalphond encourages anyone who would like to help with the project to call him at home, 574-896-3339.