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Volunteers pitch in to help cleanup Greenwood Cemetery in Bemidji

Michael Davis of Clearbrook operates a Bobcat as he loads a City of Blackduck dump truck Friday afternoon at Greenwood Cemetery. The use of the dump truck was donated by Blackduck to a cleanup effort at Greenwood Cemetery, which sustained damage during the July 2 storm. Bethany Wesley | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI - Volunteers pitched in Friday to clear Greenwood Cemetery of debris created by the July 2 storm that downed trees throughout the region.

Dale Moe, sexton of the cemetery since 1969, said the cemetery lost 26 trees in the storm that carried with it winds in excess of 80 mph.

The cemetery lost along Bemidji Avenue some of its flowering crab trees, which blew over into the fence outside of the Bemidji State University baseball field.

Most of the other trees lost were jackpines, from around the gravesites and in a wooded area. Some had been planted years ago by families who purchased larger lots.

None of the standing grave markers were damaged, Moe said. A few fell from their bases but were easily put back in place. Some flat grave markers, too, were uprooted but they, also, were easily replaced.

Moe himself cleared downed trees from the graves following the storm, dragging them over to undeveloped land that doesn't now have gravesites.

Volunteers worked Friday to clear those piles, bringing them to the Waste Management disposal area.

About 10 men came to help clean up Greenwood Cemetery. Among them was Rae Burmeister, a public works employee with the city of Blackduck. The city there donated the use of its truck and driver to haul debris away.

It was the second time that Blackduck pitched in to help clean up the area. A four-man crew previously hauled nine dump truck loads of debris. Midway through Friday, Burmeister had hauled at least four loads and expected to get eight nice-sized loads hauled away.

A Bobcat was loaned to the effort courtesy of Bobcat of Bemidji.

"Things are coming down and working pretty well today," Burmeister said. "That skidsteer is helping a great deal."

Greenwood Cemetery put out a request for volunteers willing to help clean up its grounds.

Among those who responded was Michael Davis, one of four Clearbrook men who came to help. Davis said he heard the call for aid on the radio.

Ed Verke, who volunteered along with his sons Rodney and Jeremy, said he has a mother, father, brother and sister all buried in Greenwood Cemetery and was compelled to help out.

"If it had gotten the brunt of the storm, there wouldn't be anything left," he said, looking around at the damage.