FAIRFIELD COUNTY — A rural cemetery in Fairfield County has added something they say isn’t available anywhere nearby: a columbarium, which is a monument-like structure that holds urns filled with the deceased’s ashes.
Centerville Cemetery, which began as a family burial site more than 50 years ago, has grown into a non-profit cemetery that now contains approximately 600 graves and, in recent years, has expanded with the purchase of more land and other physical assets and technological upgrades.
“The cemetery started as a family cemetery. The first burial was in 1958 – it was the grandson of the man who donated the land for the cemetery,” says Pinkey Peake, a longtime board member of the Ridgeway Cemetery Association, who oversees it.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took over the cemetery at that time, but maybe 25 years ago the church gave it to a board, and it this is what we are working under now.”
The columbarium, a common feature of large city cemeteries, was installed because, in a recent trend attributed to tight finances and cost comparison, more people locally began to express an interest in cremation.
“The cost is probably half or less than a regular burial, so more people are choosing to be cremated,” says Kenny Mattox, president of the cemetery association. “It’s new for a lot of people, especially in rural communities like this, but cremation is becoming very popular, and we want to try to adapt to that, to provide whatever we can.”
Located in Centerville, a small community that has no stores — only homes, with most residents tied to one another — the cemetery holds significance to the community, he says.
“We had family growing up all around the cemetery area,” Peake says, echoing that thought. “So I sat on the board for about 20 years.”
Mattox, she says, is also a longtime member of the board, and many all-volunteer board members are driven by their personal connections to the community and the people buried there. For those who came before, the cemetery was a community effort.
“There were so many other people who gave so much over the years giving of their time and energy and money,” Peake says. “I could give you several names of people who put so much money into it.”
At the same time, say Mattox and Peake, the Centerville Cemetery is open to the wider community: anyone who wishes to have themselves or their loved ones buried in a peaceful country location.
“There’s still a lot of tradition there, but…now, outside the community, people are discovering the cemetery,” Peake says. “The plots in our cemetery are much cheaper than in town. It attracts some people, and we agree with that. We totally agree with that.
The cemetery is located at 867 Centerville Road in Ridgeway.