Notices from the Owner

Dedication, Apologies and Enough is Enough

It was 1974 when I arrived in Muscatine to work for Thomas F. Beveridge at the Geo. M. Wittich Funeral Home. It was 1978, at age 28, that I purchased the business from Tommy.  In 1983 I opened a new facility, the Geo. M. Wittich-Lewis Funeral Home at 2907 Mulberry Ave.  Other area funeral directors were reluctant to open a new facility vocalizing that I was not “Compassionate” because I was building in the wrong area of town.  Also at that time I brought “Funeral Service Aftercare” to this area, the second funeral home in Iowa to have such a program. Aftercare consisted of grief programs, Christmas Remembrance Services, Handling the Holidays Workshops, social programs for widows and widower of bus trips and Valentine Luncheons.  Every year the Memorial Day program at Memorial Park is presented and has over 400 in attendance.  The nationally known grief therapist, Darcy Simms, was scheduled to talk with teachers and adults providing a week long grief programs.  The Moving Vietnam Wall was presented and had over 25,000 visitors. Numerous other events and programs have been, and continue to be, sponsored by the Geo. M. Wittich-Lewis Home for Funeral and Cremation Services and Muscatine Memorial Park Cemetery educating the Muscatine area on grief issues and facilitating the grief journey of the bereaved.

A local funeral home, forced out of business, did not have the monies that had been entrusted to the funeral home for prearranged funerals.  I made an arrangement with that business, giving away and providing over $250,000.00 in retail services, merchandise and cash advanced monies to the families of Muscatine, with minimal monetary reimbursement.  I did this to protect the families who had made funeral service prearrangements and to protect funeral service in Muscatine.  No other funeral director in this area stepped forward to assist families through this crisis.               

By 1987 Muscatine Memorial Park Cemetery had four owners in a five year period.  One of the owners moved from Muscatine after selling over 200 “Restbeds,” 200 burial vaults, over a dozen caskets, several bronze and granite markers and 26 mausoleum crypts.  This owner trusted no money for the sales, which is required by Iowa law. It is estimated that he left Muscatine with over a million dollars in money bilked by his sales. He was later arrested in another state and imprisoned for embezzlement and fraud.  Consequently, two other owners attempted to salvage Memorial Park from a position of unrest and disrepair. I purchased the cemetery to stabilize it and secure the cemetery for the families that used it. I have since serviced the “Restbeds,” provided the burial vaults, caskets and built the Garden Mausoleum for the families that bought them from a previous owner.  I did so at little or no repayment. I have paved all the roads in the Park and added options of a uniform upright granite monument area and a Garden Mausoleum.

I have protected the financial investments of the people in Muscatine and supported progressive funeral service for the education and grief facilitation of the bereavedin this area.  Funeral Service is not a job for me, but DEDICATION OF  SERVICE  to the families I serve.

The concept of a Memorial Park has been simplicity and uniformity since the beginning of “Memorial Park Cemeteries” in the United States.  All markers looked alike, all decorations were basically alike.  The theory being, that ALL are equal in the eyes of God.  The first Memorial Parks would allow only real, fresh flowers and they were removed 5 days after decorating the grave.  A “Memorial Park” truly looked like a “Park” and that was the theory of how the first burial lots were sold.  Some original purchasers still remind me of that and they want it back the way it was to be when they purchased their lots!  Then artificial flowers were invented and a change in rules occurred. The artificial flowers were allowed year round and there was a “cemetery cleanup” on March 15 and October 15th.  Then in the mid-1980’s, two owners previous to me allowed shepherd staffs into the cemetery and they established the size requirement and how they were to be used and how many could be placed per marker. Just as markers were uniform in size, design and type, so were the shepherd staffs. I purchased the Memorial Park Cemetery in 1987, several years after the rules were made.  Those same rules still exist that were made by previous owners and have not been changed by me.

Following is the original rules for Shepherd Staffs:

Shepherd Staff Regulations

The use of Shepherd Staffs is NOT consistent with the Memorial Park standards.  For reasons of uniformity, maintenance and safety during the mowing season and in the winter when the ground freezes, Muscatine Memorial Park Cemetery DOES NOT recommend staffs as a decoration and is not responsible for their maintenance or the staff itself.  If the Shepherd Staff   does   not   conform   to   regulations or becomes unsightly or needs repair, it will be removed without notice.

Shepherd Staff Regulations

  • One staff per marker with a single hook…
  • All staffs must meet the specific measurements as shown in the drawing below (except for Babyland).  
  • A staff must be coated with a black, rust proof sealant.
  • No shelves, ornaments, animals or other metal additions may be made to the staff, nor may any objects be tied to or leaned against the staff.
  • Shepherd staffs should be removed for the winter months, from October 15 through March 15, to avoid damage.
  • Staffs not maintained and/or which do not have a floral decoration displayed on them will be removed.
  • Items placed may only be floral decorations of a hanging basket or a wreath.  The Shepherd Staff may be wrapped with a single strand of garland.     

A few years ago I brought forward the question, “Should the Memorial Park revert to the original concept of simplicity and uniformity or should Shepherd Staffs continue to be allowed.”  It was a resounding 65/35% response to allow Shepherd Staffs to remain.  The Shepherd Staffs remain and the same rules apply that were established by previous owners.

APOLOGIZE for any misunderstanding about the rules. However, the rules have not changed for 20 years.  They are in writing and available to all by calling or stopping in and requesting a copy.

Muscatine Memorial Park Cemetery is cared for by Evergreen Lawn Service, Mike Wade owner.  He supervises all the maintenance and rules, regulation and policy enforcement.  Evergreen Lawn Service does an excellent job of maintaining the Park grounds and is very compassionate with the families served by the Park.  He does his best to enforce the rules without creating emotional duress.  Every March 15th and October 15th Park cleanup occurs, just like for the last 50 years, and all decorations are removed.  Veteran staffs and Shepherd Staffs are NOT taken, as long as they meet Park regulations.  Mike, admittedly, struggles with Shepherd Staff enforcement because it simply is not a pleasant task for him to remove sentimental items from the Park.  “A Memorial Park is simplicity and uniformity, all equal.”  Mike understands the policies of a Memorial Park and strives to maintain a beautiful Park for all.      

APOLOGIZE to Audrey Johnson who wrote the letter to the editor about her

“double headed Shepherd Staff” being taken off the gravesite. However, the rules regarding Shepherd Staffs have never changed.

APOLOGIZE and sympathize with Molly Connor who wrote the letter to the editor about decorations missing from her infant’s grave. Very seldom are items removed from an infants gravesite.

AND NOW ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

As a result of the letters to the editor and comments on KWPC talk show, a few individuals have given the wrong impression to the families of the 7,000 interments that are cared for at Memorial Park.  The implication that rules and regulations at Memorial Park Cemetery have changed simply is not true.  Unfortunately, a perpetually disgruntled, vocal minority have managed to create unnecessary emotional stress for many! 

Allow me to emphatically state:  THE RULES HAVE BEEN THE SAME AT MEMORIAL PARK FOR 20 YEARS AND CONTINUE TO BE THE SAME.  DECORATIONS ON A UNIFORM SHEPHERD STAFF OR IN A MARKER’S BRONZE VASE IS CONSISTANT WITH THE UNIFORMITY OF A MEMORIAL PARK.

If you have questions, comments, compliments or complaints, please feel free to call me personallyor my staff at  563-263-8112 or the Memorial Park office anytime at  563-263- 8842.   You may also leave a comment by clicking here.We strive to find satisfactory solutions to any concerns you may have.