Hellberg leads fundraising effort to restore cemetery fencing

CONTRIBUTED GRAPHIC – An example graphic shows what the Riverside Cemetery fence tribute plaques would look like. Vic Hellberg is currently leading an effort to fundraise for the full replacement of the fence.

For Vic Hellberg, restoring the Riverside Cemetery after the 2020 derecho isn’t just another community project, it’s personal.

Hellberg’s great-grandfather William, who founded the jewelry business that still bears his family name, is buried at the cemetery on the north side of town with a large monument honoring him, along with subsequent generations of the legendary local family. So, for Vic, who has served on the Riverside Board of Trustees for the last eight months, he wanted to play a role in the recovery effort however he could.

One of the most notable results of the derecho was the destruction of major portions of the 4,200 feet of fencing around the cemetery along Highway 14, Riverside Street and North Center Street. Thus, Hellberg spearheaded an initiative to allow donors who contribute $300 to replace each 10 foot section — 420 of them in all — to memorialize a lost loved one, thank a veteran for their service or celebrate a local business.

“There are great people in town that step up when they’re asked, so that’s what we decided to do,” he said. “The whole community is appreciative of everything that people step up and do.”

Hellberg and local realtor Kelli Thurston make up the two-member fence committee, and they’ve already started to collect donations for the project, which will go toward the installation of a new black fence around the property.

For Riverside General Manager Dorie Tammen, the last year and a half has been especially trying in light of a denied Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) request for funding to preserve the historic nonprofit cemetery. Nonetheless, she’s been impressed with the community response and their contributions toward the tree removal bill and now the fence project.

“It’s absolutely wonderful and amazing. This town has struggled a lot in the last few years,” Tammen said. “The Top Notch Tree Removal bill is down to $40,000, and we started at $700,000… I wouldn’t have guessed that we’d get this close to getting that bill paid off this quickly.”

Tammen explained that the insurance company’s offer did not come close to covering the actual cost of replacing the fence, so she and the board were forced to explore other options.

“They only wanted to pay for the broken bits and leave the parts that were still standing. It’s old, and it wouldn’t have looked good,” she said. “Then we came up with the idea of black chain link, which would look much nicer with the iron gates and stuff that we have. It’s just going to really look beautiful.”

If the fundraising effort surpasses the established goal — with 420 sections at $300 each, it comes to $126,000 — the additional dollars will go toward other restoration projects at the cemetery. To make a donation or learn more about the project, call Vic Hellberg at 641-752-3675 or email newriversidefence@gmail.com.

The fence at Riverside Cemetery in Marshalltown has fallen into severe disrepair after the 2020 derecho.


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