Chesterton Tribune

Delores Brooks leaving Chesterton Cemetery after 66 years

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

It is the end of an era for the town of Chesterton this month as Chesterton Cemetery employee Delores Brooks will be retiring after 66 years of service, most of those years working at the side of her late husband Ralph.

Brooks, who has lived in the Furnessville area all her life, will end her lease with the National Parks Service and relocate to Monticello to be closer to her daughter and son-in-law. The site where Brooks resides now will be used by the Parks for wildlife preservation.

One of the houses she lived in was a house built in the 1870s by her grandfather and another house built by her brother, which will be cleared away.

“I’m going to be sad when I leave Chesterton. That’s the main thing,” said Brooks, who will be turning 87 in November. “I’m going to take my memories with me.”

Many of the memories include her husband who began working at the cemetery when he was fourteen years old. He received his first paycheck in 1934 and worked as an employee of the cemetery until his death in 2007, said Brooks.

The two wed on April 15, 1944, in Furnessville after meeting each other at a local roller rink.

“That’s how all girls met their husbands in those days,” she said.

Brooks said her husband Ralph would sometimes be called out to the cemetery in the late hours of the night to dig a plot. He would do the digging by hand until 1952 when a tractor became available.

Ralph was sexton of the cemetery for about 60 years.

He also served 42 years with the Chesterton Volunteer Fire Department and was Fire Chief from 1962 until 1980. In 1991, Ralph was named Chesterton Citizen of the year.

Both he and his wife were members of the Porter County Farm Bureau and farmed in Furnessville. They were also active in the Duneland Historical Society.

Brooks tends to her hobbies often and keeps up with craftwork, photography, and baking, where her daughter says her cooking talents are “unequalled.” She also lends a hand at St. Patrick, Augsburg, and Burstrom cemeteries which her husband also looked after in his lifetime.

“There’s always been plenty of work to do,” said Brooks.

Brooks has served as one of the seven Chesterton Cemetery board members and also the three-member board of the Furnessville Cemetery.

Chesterton residents may remember the large garden that Brooks kept on the eastern property of the Chesterton Cemetery for many years where she grew flowers, vegetables, and strawberries, her favorite.

Even after helping Ralph for over 60 years, Brooks didn’t become an official employee of the cemetery until 2007.

She said her favorite aspect about her job is being able to help people find the places where their past loved ones have been laid to rest. Problem solving is also regarded one of her highest talents by those who know her.

“There is hardly an inch in that cemetery that she doesn’t know about,” said Duneland historian and fellow Chesterton Cemetery board member Nancy Vaillaincourt.

Brooks said she is very close to her family. Her granddaughter Cindy and two great-grandchildren, live in Cincinnati. Great-granddaughter Katie recently participated in gymnastics at the National Junior Olympics in Virginia.

Brooks is already looking forward to visiting her many friends in Chesterton after her move to Monticello.

One of those friends is the Chesterton Cemetery’s black-and-white feline mascot, Tombstone.

“I’m very proud of my life,” summed up Brooks. She also told the Chesterton Tribune she would like to give credit to Ralph in her years of accomplished service.

 

Posted 9/22/2010