BLOOMFIELD — Halloween is just around the corner, and a group dedicated to maintaining the oldest cemetery in Bloomfield hopes to ward off the ghouls of overgrown weeds and garbage with rakes and shovels this weekend.
The Bloomfield Cemetery Association will hold a cleanup event Saturday at the hillside cemetery that overlooks downtown.
"Many of the plots are neglected and in sore need of some TLC," said Sue Giovanini, secretary for the cemetery association board. "While many buried there have family in the area to visit them, there are a number of plots that relatives of the buried have moved away."
The lack of upkeep, combined with recent rains, have resulted in sprouted weeds and sandy dirt piles, as well as knocked over mementos and flower stands and obscured plot lines, Giovanini said.
Dorothy Randolph, who was in the first graduating class of Bloomfield High School, has been tending to her family's plot and helping with general upkeep of the cemetery since 1983. Her mother, Wanda McKinley -- who is now buried beside her husband and father -- volunteered Randolph by surprise.
"My mother took me to a meeting (of the cemetery board) and when they asked if any attendees wanted to volunteer, she raised her hand and gave my name," Randolph said. "People ask me if it creeps me out to spend so much time in a cemetery, but I just say, 'With the dead you have nothing to worry about. It's the living you do.'"
The cemetery was started after Eben D. Jackson donated the land beside an irrigation ditch in the shadow of "B" Hill in 1918. Early city founders like homesteader Peter Milton Salmon, who settled along the San Juan River in 1877, are buried at the cemetery.
The dead of notable area families -- Motto, Faverino, Sategna, Ferrari and Gale -- are buried at the Bloomfield Cemetery alongside relative unknowns.
The oldest grave belongs to a French physician, Frederic LeClerc, who lived from 1810 to 1890. LeClerc left a prestigious position as chief of staff at a hospital in France to settle in Bloomfield, which was then called Porter, named after Horace Porter, who built a trading post south of present-day city limits. Porter was officially renamed Bloomfield on May 17, 1882.
Bloomfield City Council member Curtis Lynch's parents are buried on the east side of the cemetery. His mother, Erva Mae Lynch, was a Bloomfield mayor.
Veterans of the Korean War and World War II are laid to rest there, including World War II U.S. Army Sgt. John N. Jaquez, who lived from 1914 to 1998.
"My maternal grandfather was a father of seven, a lifelong resident of San Juan County and an area pioneer," said Jaquez's grandson, Bryan Paul, who lives in Aztec. "(The cemetery) is a historical place and needs our care."
The cemetery, a little more than an acre in size, houses headstones of varying sizes, shapes and designs, some festooned with beer bottles, paper flowers or wind chimes. Some are engraved with pictorial embellishments -- a freestanding oil derrick, horses, wedding rings, carpenter tools, mountain landscapes and a pair of cowboy boots -- that make walking among the plots a reminder of the area's industry and culture.
In the cemetery's southwest corner lay the remains of Alex C. Hare, who lived from 1897 to 2001, and his wife, Eula Pearl Hare. Their headstone, two hearts in eternal embrace, include the 65 years the couple were married.
"Mr. Hare was the neatest, most laid-back, easy-going man," Randolph said. "He once pointed out a spider web to me and said, 'If everybody could work like that spider, this place would just be perfect.' I never forgot that."
The people whose remains and stories are housed at the cemetery are why the cemetery association is holding the cleanup event.
"These people who are buried here are the reason we're out here," Randolph said. "We need to show them our respect."
What: Bloomfield Cemetery clean-up day
When: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday
Where: Bloomfield Cemetery, 1/4 mile west of N. First Street on Cemetery Road, near the Bloomfield Methodist Church, under “B” Hill
More info: Call Ron Maestas at 505-486-1791. If you are unable to send a family representative to work on your plot, you can make a donation of $20 to $25 to pay for hired help. Send donations to Bloomfield Cemetery Association, P.O. Box 2396, Bloomfield, NM 87413.