By Jeff Holt
Published May 6, 2021 in The Burg
Martin Reichel served as the manager of the Saint Josephs Cemetery from 1983 to 2017. He sold the plots, kept the books, made sure the grounds were mowed properly and paid the groundskeepers. Plus, he made sure the burials went smoothly each year and that big holidays like Memorial Day were always looking extra special.
"I love this place," he said. "It's probably the most beautiful cemetery within 100 miles, including Peoria and everywhere else. It's just peaceful surroundings and it feels like home to me. And of course, I've worked at cemetaries all my life. I just followed the footsteps of my father in law (the late Jack McFall)."
Joked Reichel, "You know you are getting older when you know more dead people than the ones that are still alive."
Saint Josephs Cemetery is located in Galesburg just south of East Linwood and Linwood Cemeteries. There are 33 acres total, with an average of about 40 burials each year.
Reichel said they currently have about 5,500 burials at Saint Josephs and that there is still "plenty of room" if anyone else is interested in being buried at this Catholic cemetery. He also mentioned the "rolling trees" that help the overall layout of the cemetery and the blacktop roads that have been upgraded through the years (they used to be gravel).
Reichel has been retired for close to four years, but he still donates his time to help Kathy Larson (the current manager) if she has any questions.
"I just call him and he's like here is the book of rules - read it again," joked Larson.
Ironically, both Reichel and Larson graduated from Costa High School in 1967 and you can tell the great support they have for one another.
And it doesn't take long to hear the enthusiasm that Larson has for her job and the Saint Joseph Cemetery.
"I enjoy everything about it," Larson said, about the local cemetery and her job. "I love the families that I'm meeting. I love talking about the history and the traditions as far as the burials. People love anything to do with our Catholic traditions."
During covid, they did have a Catholic mass on Sundays at the Saint Josephs Cemetery, with a beautiful altar and behind it is a large crucifix. Local residents brought their own lawn chairs for the outdoor service and they had close to 90 people in attendance. They wore masks and proper spacing was enforced.
Larson might have said it best when she helped put Saint Josephs Cemetery in perspective.
"It really helps us to keep that sense of something that is so much more than we are - waiting for us," she said. "You really have a sense of eternal life out here, and you are with family members. You just feel close to one another. It is truly holy ground."