TUALATIN Lois Dalton has been taking care of friends and neighbors even in their death.
The 74-year-old headed the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3452 Ladies’ Auxiliary project that documented all those buried at the historic 5-acre Winona Cemetery, the final resting place for some of Tualatin’s most prominent families.
“I thought it would be a cake walk,” Dalton said.
But incomplete records, faint headstone engravings and faded memories prolonged this seemingly simple task into a three-year labor of love.
“I am so impressed,” Dalton said Friday as she watched workers mount six large gold plaques in a small three-walled brick shelter that will serve as the cemetery’s memorial directory.
“When we were in the planning stages, I had no idea,” she said. “I had a little shoe box to show what I wanted. I had no idea it would turn out like this.”
From afar, the plaques look the same.
On four of the plaques, about 800 gold-colored rectangles, each the size of an address label, contain names of those buried here. Some have stars next to their names, signifying a pioneer. Others have small flags, marking them as veterans.
But stand closer and read: Byrom, Hedges, Ibach, Martinazzi, Sagert, Jurgens and Lafky.
Read the dates. Many, such as the label belonging to Issac Ball, owner of the land before it became Winona Cemetery, bear two — 1827 to 1912. Some infants have only one date. Underwood “Baby Boy” — his label reads 1943.
For some families, the information is so incomplete that there are no names or dates. “Townsend Family” read six entries. “Mother” reads one label. “Baby” reads another.
Each label contains the location of the grave, a set of numbers that correspond with a map nearby. Another plaque contains a short history of the cemetery along with a replica of documents dating to 1918. The first recorded burial took place in 1900.
All this information tells a part of Tualatin’s history.
Cemetery fell into disrepair Dalton moved to Tualatin in the 1950s, when it was a small community of about 200 residents and everyone knew everyone else’s name. When she visited Winona Cemetery, she realized that she recognized more than half of the names.
Over the years, the cemetery fell into disrepair. People would dump their debris at the cemetery, said Dalton’s daughter, Kathy Walsh, who is president of the Ladies’ Auxiliary and helped on the memorial.
“A lot of people didn’t want to be buried here because it was so shabby,” Walsh said.
Loyce Martinazzi, president of the nonprofit Winona Cemetery Association, said that in recent years community members have had a renewed interest in the cemetery.
“I think everybody thought it was someone else’s responsibility,” she said.
Volunteers have kept up the cemetery, cleaned headstones, pulled weeds and placed flags on graves during Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
The cemetery association installed a black metal fence around the perimeter within the last year.
Over the weekend, Dalton and other community members unveiled the memorial directory.
The structure is valued at about $20,000, Dalton said. All the materials and labor came as donations from local businesses and residents.
There are still spaces on the plaques to add names. Dalton said a committee will meet once a year to make sure the plaques are updated and reorganized so the listings remain alphabetical.
With all the additions to Winona Cemetery, Dalton last week glanced around and smiled.
“It looks like a cemetery now,” she said.
Emily Tsao: 503-294-5968; email@example.com