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Storm devastates Riverside

Historic cemetery will look much different after clean-up

T-R photos by Lana Bradstream — Jack Edwards, an employee of Top Notch Tree Service, pushes a large branch through a wood chipper at Riverside Cemetery on Thursday. The historic cemetery suffered incredible damage from the Monday derecho.

Riverside Cemetery in Marshalltown escaped most of the devastation of the tornado, but not of Monday’s derecho.

Driving on the roads through the historic cemetery, trees are broken in half or uprooted, monuments are busted, branches and leaves are scattered everywhere. The fence surrounding the cemetery is mangled. Some of the uprooted trees have left gaping holes in the ground or lifted monuments from the earth.

“It is devastating to go out and look at all of it,” said Dorie Tammen, general manager of the Riverside Cemetery. “This is the worst damage we have ever had.”

As she observed the mess for the first time after the derecho passed, Tammen’s first thought was, “How the heck are we going to clean this up? How are we going to pay for it?”

The destruction is spread over the 90 plus acres. Tammen called Top Notch Tree Service of Marshalltown to help with the removal of the tree debris. Jack Edwards, a Top Notch employee, said the company has weeks of work ahead of them.

Top Notch Tree Service employee Raymon Maxey uses a chainsaw on a fallen tree at Riverside. Thursday was his second day on the job and there is plenty to do at Riverside Cemetery.

The larger and older trees that were toppled have to be cut into smaller pieces by chainsaws. The pieces are then run through the wood chipper.

Stacks of cut trunks and broken branches are being made to help make room for movement.

The first thing the company did was clear the roads in the cemetery to allow cars and working vehicles the ability to get through.

Fortunately, the domestic birds at the Riverside pond got away unscathed and are swimming in the water, walking on the roads and the grass, making honking noises drowned out by the sounds of chainsaws and engines.

“I am amazed they survived,” Tammen said.

Besides the mess on the ground, Tammen said the Riverside Cemetery building and the canopy near the chapel received damage. A large tree limb fell through the canopy and the building is missing shingles. A statue was broken off of the altar in the Catholic II section of the cemetery.

Some of the monuments of historically important families to Marshalltown were damaged. The Hellberg famiily monument was tipped and broken into two pieces. The Binford family monument was tipped over.

There are thousands of other monuments that still have trees and branches on top of them.

“People keep contacting me, asking if their grandfather or father’s marker is okay,” Tammen said. “I keep telling them we have to get the trees out first.”

People eager to volunteer are also calling Tammen to ask how they can help. One family was so passionate about helping, they walked from the neighborhood of Anson Elementary to Riverside, just to rake up all the leaves cluttering the ground surrounding the building.

Tammen said that was wonderful. However, more volunteers are not needed at this time, but they will be. Tammen said there is a large number of trucks and big pieces of equipment at Riverside, and they are moving the large and heavy trunks. Once the larger debris is taken care of, then volunteers will be requested.

“There is leaf and stick litter everywhere,” she said.

Also, no visitors are allowed at Riverside Cemetery at this time – at least not until the larger pieces are gone.

Tammen said she heard someone is setting up a GoFundMe account to raise money for the clean-up efforts.

“This is going to be in the hundreds of thousands,” she said. “We are a non-profit. We do not have it.”

Large trees fell on top of monuments at Riverside Cemetery, either burying them or breaking. Many monuments were damaged in the Monday derecho.

Tammen doubts the cemetery will be cleaned by the time winter arrives. She said when it is all over, and all of the work is done, Riverside will look much different. There will be the loss of trees, which will never be replaced. Tammen said planting trees in burial grounds is no longer allowed.

“There is now sky where there used to be leafy branches,” she said. “There is sun where there used to be shade.”

Dustin Smith, a Top Notch Tree Service employee, cuts through a downed tree near a monument bearing the name “Anson.” Smith said the Riverside Cemetery was “a mess” after the storm on Monday.

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