Upgrades include columbarium wall, urn garden
By Robert Cloud
A $6 million project is underway at the oldest veterans cemetery in the state.
After opening in 1888, the Central Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery in King has become the final resting place for nearly 6,700 veterans.
Located on a 63-acre property, the cemetery is currently using 14 acres.
The first phase of the project will be completed in the fall of 2018.
Gary Dierks is the director of the Bureau of Cemeteries for the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.
He said operation of the cemetery was transferred from the veterans home to the bureau in 2015. The transfer allowed the WDVA to seek federal funding for improvements.
Among the improvements to be made this summer is building a new columbarium wall for cremains.
The project also calls for expanding the urn garden burial sites, which are located across the road from the columbarium.
The columbarium is a wall with niche plates, which provide an above-ground structure for interring the cremated remains of veterans.
About 250 niches will be available after this summer.
The cemetery’s urn garden will also be expanded with an additional 500 sites for in-ground burials of urns.
Each site will be 3 feet by 5 feet and have an upright headstone.
“We’re seeing the public’s choices shifting from caskets to cremations,” Dierks said.
He noted that an average of 165 burials occur annually at the veterans cemetery.
More than half the internments now involve cremations.
Work has also started on the cemetery’s new 1,264-square-foot administration building.
In addition to offices for staff, the administration building will have restrooms that are accessible to those with disabilities.
Currently, the only restrooms available to people visiting the cemetery are located in the veterans home’s maintenance building, which is not handicap accessible.
There will also be a grave locator kiosk in the lobby of the administration building, as well as conference space to meet with families and assembly space for the honor guards.
Having its own office space will make it easier for the cemetery staff to help arrange burials.
“Any veteran or veteran’s family can call 715-256-5000 to be in a pre-registration program,” Dierks said.
A new 1,574 square-foot maintenance building will also be built this summer.
Currently, cemetery maintenance shares space with the veterans home maintenance.
About half the roads in the cemetery will be repaved and widened this summer. The remaining roads will be completed in 2019.
Instead of only being wide enough for one-way traffic, the improved roads will allow two-way traffic.
During the project’s second phase in 2019, the cemetery will begin installing 525 pre-set liners.
In the past, families had to pay for their own grave liners, which are lidded, concrete boxes where the coffins are placed.
A new committal shelter and improvements to the flag plaza assembly area are also planned in 2019.