New Lovell Cemetery project unveiled for Memorial Day

By David Peck

Folks attending the Memorial Day program at the Lovell Cemetery Monday were pleasantly surprised to find a new addition to the cemetery, a veterans memorial and seating area for services and special events.

The project, funded by the Lovell Cemetery District in partnership with Big Horn Rural Electric Company (Big Horn REA), has been in the works for a few years as funds were set aside and got going in earnest a little more than a year ago under the guidance of the cemetery board and cemetery superintendent Spencer Ellis.

The cemetery formerly had a decaying rock monument and a flagpole but no seating and no electricity to the site, board secretary/treasurer Jack Nicholls said.

“We wanted to take down that old flagpole and get rid of that stone thing that was there,” Nicholls said. “When we held the Memorial Day ceremonies, there was no electricity, and a generator didn’t always run well. People just milled around. We thought we ought to have something nice, especially for Memorial Day.”

The new ceremonial area has 12 benches within a
stone wall with a new flagpole and large American flag at the west end.

“It’s just a restful place, the only place in the cemetery to sit down,” Nicholls said. “People go out there to walk. People can look over the area and just sit there and do whatever they want with their thoughts. The flag lights up at night. It’s really something to see compared to what we had. It really does look nice, especially with the breeze blowing and that big flag flying.”

Other members of the cemetery board are Mike Jameson, Ralph Winland, Aaron Workman, Brent Reasch and Todd Herman, who is also an employee of Big Horn REA.

The project has been discussed by the board for years, and work began in the spring of 2020, Ellis said. 

“It was just time,” he said. “The monument was falling apart. There was no power and no sitting area. The board wanted to construct an area with bench seats and room for a speaker up front. They’ve also had a vision for an electronic directory, so when we ran electricity (from Lane 13) we ran fiber optic (cable), as well.

“Jaime made sure everything was ADA compliant.”

“We got a couple of bids on it and worked with the mason (Jaime Petrich of JP Masonry) to get some ideas,” Nicholls said. “He did good work for us and made some suggestions for the stone and colors.”

Big Horn REA General Manager Jeff Umphlett said REA was pleased to contribute to the project.

“As a cooperative, one of our principles is to give back to the community,” he said, noting that the REA board was “very interested” in partnering with the cemetery district and helping the community.

Big Horn REA contributed $10,000 to the project, and Basin Electric Power Cooperative matched that total with $10,000, as well.

“We’re very appreciative of those people,” Nicholls said. “That (partnership) really pushed the project to get it going. We really appreciate the REA.”

The project was mostly completed last fall, with JP Masonry doing the concrete and Levi Miller of Miller’s Fabrication erecting the new flagpole. The only thing left to add is a plaque honoring veterans, Nicholls said.

“We wanted to get it done before the weather hit,” Nicholls said. “We had trouble getting the rock we wanted.”

Down the road, he said, the district would like to add an electronic directory so a visitor could punch in a name and find the grave.

“It’s a little pricey,” he said, “so we’re trying to put a little money away each year.”

The new facility has been well received, and people attending Monday’s Memorial Day veterans ceremony made many positive statements, Nicholls said.

“It worked well,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of good comments about how people could sit and see the program.

“We appreciate Spencer and his family. They have the place looking so good. He has done all of the legwork on the project. I give him a lot of credit for pushing that project and getting things done.”

“It looks great. It’s a nice addition to the cemetery.”

“I just want to thank everybody who helped with the project,” Ellis said.