VERONA -- Time and the elements are slowly wearing away at a treasure trove of local history.
Dozens of grave markers at the Verona Cemetery, a non-sectarian burial ground in use for 154 years, are in need of cleaning and repair, said Art Cresson, treasurer of the not-for-profit Verona Cemetery Association and former Verona mayor. 

Art Cresson looks at some broken 
tombstones in the Verona Cemetery.
   The cemetery lies on 12 acres on County M in the city of Verona, a few blocks east of Verona High School. Its neighbor is a four-acre Catholic cemetery associated with St. Andrew Parish.
   Years of being subjected to Wisconsin's annual freeze and thaw cycle have caused some older tombstones to crack or even fall over, while others have become illegible due to the accumulation of moss and dirt.
   Last year, the association straightened 50 monuments at a cost of $8,800. Donations from the Lutheran Brotherhood and other private contributors covered about 10 percent of those costs, with the cemetery paying for the rest out of its annual budget.
   But there are still 24 markers that are badly damaged, and estimates for repairing and cleaning them run more than $10,000.
   Cresson said the investment would be worth it. By making old headstones legible once again, the restoration would recover parts of Verona’s early history.
   But he added that “these are special projects that we really don’t have the funds for. We really can’t do it without donations.”
   The association’s operating budget, which generally runs around $10,000 comes from interest on conservative investments and pays for office supplies and basic upkeep of the grounds, such as mowing, raking and plowing. The cemetery is run by volunteers.

 A tombstone from 1876 lies broken in 
the snow at the Verona Cemetery.
   “Now with interest rates falling, our income is going to be way down,” Cresson said. “We’re fiscally sound as long as we don’t want to do anything extra.”
   The cemetery goes back to Verona’s earliest days. The state Legislature created the town in 1847, and the following year land owner Josiah Matts donated the land for the cemetery.
   The first burial at Verona cemetery, Joseph Nye, was 1848. Five other members of the Nye family would eventually be buried there, including Josiah Nye, who died on Sept. 5, 1863, at age 20 after a year of fighting with the Union Army in the Civil War.
   Cresson said the Verona Cemetery is the final resting place of several local Civil War veterans, but the exact number is uncertain because of the condition of the tombstones.
In all, more than 2,100 local residents have been buried at the cemetery. Cresson is working on completing a map that includes each of the burial sites along with genealogical references and basic facts about each person.
   “We have maps of some sections, but not of the whole thing.” He said, adding that some of the sectional maps are now outdated.  The association plans to apply for government funds for restoring the tombstones of individuals who fought in the Civil War, and an anonymous donor has come forward with a donation to cover the costs of repairing an ancestor’s monument.
   But Cresson said many of the sites in question belong to individuals whos families no longer live in the area. “We really don’t know how to find them,” he said.

Capital Times - Jan 23 2002