MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — The derecho storm that hit Iowa left a lot of damage. Some are still dealing with the cost and the cleanup. At Riverside Cemetery in Marshalltown, the bill for three weeks of cleanup work: $700,000.
“It was a direct hit and it looked like a war zone from one end to the other. We have almost 100 acres of burial grounds, and there was hardly a section that wasn’t touched,” said Dorie Tamman, Riverside Cemetery’s general manager. “Every road was blocked, monuments were toppled, trees were uprooted, and a couple, three of them with vaults showing underneath.”
The crews finally stopped working to keep the cleanup bill from getting any higher. Still dozens of headstones remain damaged. The grave markers are the responsibility of family members. However, the cemetery was started in 1863, so in many cases, there are no family descendants still in the area.
“We’re applying for FEMA funds and I have gotten a response from them. They asked for a couple of documents to be sent to them if they need to process our application,” said Tammen. “I have no idea how quick that process is or how much we might get or if we get any. I’ve never been through the process before.”
Riverside Cemetery has also set up a GoFundMe account on the Facebook page. Many have dropped off checks at the cemetery office. Around $40,000 has been raised in this effort so far.
“This is more like a park here. Everyone visits this place, people have grown up coming here and feeding the birds and riding bikes and taking walks and learning how to drive here. It’s like a city park in the eyes of most of the community,” said Tammen. “We had a lot of visitors during the COVID where they felt like they could come here and be out in the fresh air and get some exercise and still social distance.”
The cemetery is also known for the many colorful, historic people buried there.
“We have a world famous magician who was a friend of Harry Houdini,” said Tammen. “We have some wonderfully progressive women back in 1800, Marshalltown Civil War heroes, a former slave who came to Marshalltown after the Civil War. There’s amazing history here.”