Salem’s Maple Cemetery was recognized for its 2015 landscape efforts earlier this month at the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum Awards Reception March 4 in Lincoln on UNL’s East Campus.
The Maple Cemetery Board received a Community Landscape Award “recognizing the implementation of a landscape project that significantly improved a community landscape.”
A massive tree planting operation (the original plan called for 50 trees, but overwhelming fundraising success allowed for 79) took root last spring and gave Maple Cemetery, which was decimated by a 1997 ice storm, a much-needed makeover. Other improvements included the purchase of a new lawn mower, a directory of the some 2,000 burial plots, improved drainage at the entrance, removal/trimming of existing trees and identification of burials that previously had no markers.
A fundraising campaign conducted by the Cemetery Board, a $10,000 “Trees for Nebraska Towns” grant administered by UNL’s Nebraska Forest Service and the Nebraska Environmental Trust (which is funded by the Nebraska Lottery), and a matching $10,000 gift from an “anonymous” donor generated enough funds to purchase the trees and make the landscaping improvements.
“Salem was a good example of what a small community could do by coming together for a project,” Justin Evertson of the Statewide Arboretum/NE Forest Service, said. He noted all the volunteers who have helped water and care for the newly planted trees and said the cemetery is once again living up to its “wonderful heritage of tree planting.”
Village of Salem Board Members at the time of the improvements included: Chairman Ivan Schuetz, Secretary and Treasurer Barbara Brown, Tony Brown, Anita Nolte, Richard Rowland and Marlene Schuetz.
The big donor remains officially anonymous, but it’s believed the money came courtesy of comic Larry the Cable Guy, aka Dan Whitney, a Pawnee City native whose father, Thomas Von Whitney, is among those buried at Maple Cemetery. Tom Whitney grew up in the Salem-Humboldt area, was minister of the Four Mile Congregational Church in Humboldt for 12 years and the Congregational Church in Verdon for 10. The Whitney family moved to Florida in 1979, when Dan was a sophomore at Pawnee City High, and Tom died at the age of 70 in September 2004. He shares a headstone with his wife, Shirley, 78, who currently lives in Lincoln near her famous son.