After virus delays, volunteers return to cemetery cleanup

68 bags of grass removed from Pioneer Cemetery

From right, Hilary Fell participates in a volunteer cleanup of Cordova’s Pioneer Cemetery, assisted by Arthur, 9, and Walter, 6. (June 22, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

In 2020, the annual Bill Hansen Jr. Pioneer Cemetery Cleanup was canceled for the first time in its then 10-year history. This June, with coronavirus restrictions lifted, volunteers returned to Cordova’s Pioneer Cemetery to clean up two years’ worth of plant growth.

About 30 volunteers participated in the June 22 cleanup, including current and former Eyak Corporation board members, staff and shareholders; Native Village of Eyak staff and tribal members; and assorted other local volunteers. Visitors participating in the event included Jeff Stutzke, a hydraulics engineer for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Front, from left, Native Village of Eyak Deputy Director Brooke Mallory and Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities regional hydraulics engineer Jeff Stutzke take part in a volunteer cleanup of Cordova’s Pioneer Cemetery. (June 22, 2021) Photo courtesy of Brennan Cain

Volunteers operating four weed trimmers took about two hours to clear the cemetery, said Eyak Corporation Cordova Lands and Office Manager Tiffany Beedle, who coordinated the cleanup. Eyak Corporation Vice President Brennan Cain was among the volunteers who helped rake and bag enough cut grass to fill 68 bags. Volunteers also chipped paint from wooden grave markers, although the threat of rain prevented immediate repainting. Repainting will take place during calmer weather, Beedle said.

The event is named after Bill Hansen Jr., an Eyak Corporation shareholder and NVE tribal member who advocated for cemetery maintenance. The event is a joint venture between the Eyak Corporation, NVE and the city, which loaned weed trimmers, rakes and other equipment to the project. For volunteers, the event was capped off by a barbecue provided by NVE.