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Working to bring water to Old Grandview Cemetery

July 22, 2018
New Waterline for Grandview Cemetery Fund
Jim Thompson surveys the difference the water he coaxes out makes in the plot he's tended and maintained in Old Grandview Cemetery for about four years. With enough donations, he hopes to see all of Old Grandview just as green.
By Mike Weland

New Waterline for Grandview Cemetery Fund
Jim disconnects the coupling to once again clean the filter screen, something he has to do several times a day due to rust int he pipes.
About four years ago, Jim Thompson, for years the beloved custodian at Mt. Hall Elementary and until his retirement just a few years ago the man who kept the Boundary County Courthouse shining, "adopted" a small section of the Old Grandview Cemetery to take care of.

Nearly every day through the summer, he raked, clipped, cut back brush, mowed and, most importantly, watered.

A Vietnam veteran who served with the 23rd Infantry "Americal" Division, Jim primarily volunteered his time to honor the many military veterans at rest in the older part of Grandview, to make their resting place more beautiful.

His wife, Lila, is often at his side.

Having called Boundary County home for over 70 years, he also knew many of those at rest beneath those headstones, and he did it for them, too. Just over a year ago, he saw a local mom and dad he's long known tending the grave of their son at the northern tip of the cemetery, prompting him to take on another area.

Again, he cut back the encroaching brush, raked, weeded, resodded areas and planted new grass where before grass wouldn't grow.

He went over the side and picked up years of vases and faded plastic floral arrangements and trash thrown over, and acquired 14 white barrels now strategically placed to ease the littering.

He spends between four to six hours each day, he said, so those at rest have a beautiful place in which to lie in repose, and those who visit have a place of serene beauty in which to spend time with loved ones who have gone before.

Except for volunteers, the old cemetery receives only limited maintenance. The cemetery board has little funding to allocate, and groundskeeper Alan Hamilton has limited resources or time, most needed to keep the "new" Grandview Cemetery kempt and tidy.

Jim would like to expand his work in the old cemetery, but getting that most important asset, water, to the parched grass is a daunting task.

"This water system is old," Jim said, pulling a rust-filled screen from the hose bib serving the plot he tends. "The pressure flakes the rust off the inside the pipe and pushes it up. I have to clean these screen filters five or six times every day I water."

New Waterline for Grandview Cemetery Fund
No matter how hard you work, it only works if you have water.
Attached to the hose bib is a collection of several separate water hoses strung Rube Goldberg fashion to get the water to where it is needed. A similar arrangement delivers water to the second plot as well.

Sometimes volunteers join in and help. Boy Scout Troops have been a big help of late, and on occasion he gets small groups of people assigned community service, helping to beautify a much larger area than the two plots he tends.

While clearing brush a few days ago, Jim found an old grave, long hidden. He wonders if there might be more. The old trees, many too big for the mills, are getting dangerous; leaking sap copiously and dropping more and more of their needles, cones and limbs, some pushing over the headstones of those resting at their feet. Many are marked with orange bands, marked by their insurance company for removal lest they fall and cause damage or hurt someone.

A lot of work needs done, but the biggest need, Jim says, is getting water.

Early on, Jim bought a few hoses outright, then he started picking them up at the auction or in thrift stores. A consummate scrounger for causes he believes in, he got friends to give him hoses and fittings they were planning to throw away. All the equipment he uses is bought from his own pocket or scrounged, including, just recently, a storage shed at the cemetery so he doesn't have to cart the mowers, rakes and hoses up and down the hill each day.

"It saves me a lot of carrying and carting around," he said. "When I'm too old to keep this up, I'll donate it to the cemetery."

New Waterline for Grandview Cemetery Fund
Clearing the brush that has encroached around the perimeter of Old Grandview Cemetery has helped open the tranquil view of the Kootenai River below.
To help stave off that unimaginable yet inevitable day, in May, Jim, with the endorsement of American Legion Post 55 and VFW Post 3622, established the "New Waterline for Grandview Cemetery" fund at Mountain West Bank to help replace the old water main, pipe now narrowed by rust and lime, and add a filtration system to help the new pipes stay young and functional longer.

With that, he said, the entirety of the old cemetery can be as green and beautiful as the two sections he now maintains, and with much less effort.

Since establishing the account, and with little fanfare, $5,560 has been collected, a good showing, but a fraction of the nearly $63,000 that it is estimated to cost. And as time goes on, those costs will only rise.

From today until the goal is reached, the Kootenai Valley Times will feature a chart on the front page showing how far we have left in order to achieve the goal, and to encourage everyone who can to give.

Monetary donations can be made at any Mountain West Bank branch, including Bonners Ferry, 7186 1st Street, with checks made out to Grandview Cemetery Association, referencing "Old Cemetery Water Line."

Donations can also be mailed to Mountain West Bank, P.O. Box 59, Bonners Ferry, ID 83805.

Donations of materials and tools ... Jim said a dozen good strong bow rakes would be much appreciated ... can be dropped off at the Kootenai Valley Times, 6931 Main Street, Bonners Ferry, just knock so I can show you where, as I can't easily move things.

To donate your time and energy, call Jim at (208) 267-3421.
Old Grandview Cemetery Water Fund
The difference water makes is stark. Though Jim and a group of Boy Scouts raked and cleaned, the areas where there isn't someone to coax water from ancient, rusty pipes, far too small to provide adequate water, the grass withers and dies at the onset of summer once the spring rains end.

© Kootenai Valley Times
P.O. Box 1625
Bonners Ferry, ID 83806