The effort to place a headstone at every unmarked grave in the Minnehaha County Cemetery

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – A meaningful cause for any age: remembering the lives of those gone before us.

“I wanted to help other people to bury their babies that they hoped that they didn’t die,” Evelyn Rock said.

Evelyn Rock and her siblings donated money to the South Dakota Independent Order of Odd Fellows that went toward the purchase of two headstones for unmarked graves in the Minnehaha County Cemetery.

“Over 250 of them, their graves were unmarked so they were laid to rest here, but there’s no indication of where or who is in those plots other than documentation of on a piece of paper in the county superintendent’s office,” Carol Woltger with the South Dakota Independent Order of Odd Fellows said.

The Odd Fellows have so far placed headstones on 60 unmarked graves in the cemetery. They started with the graves of infants and have now moved on to adults.

“And I know that everybody, regardless of what they’ve done or where they’ve been or who’s lives have been touched by them, it all matters,” Woltger said. “And so I’m just very passionate about the fact that people’s stories matter and the fact that they lived matters.”

They’ve had some help along the way, too.

“It’s a good feeling because you get to help others remember their people,” J.T. Rock said.

“Like, if you don’t have a family, you don’t have anyone, really, to bury you and put your name out there, I think it’s important that everyone has that,” Morgan Whiting, a Jefferson High School senior and Odd Fellows member, said.

“It’s kind of an odd job. Like, you don’t really think about it much and it kind of just helps you to see like how there’s all these small things that, when you put them together, it’s what makes a community,” Kobe Lage, a senior at Lincoln High School said.

Around 50 volunteers helped the Odd Fellows place 30 headstones in the cemetery for unmarked adult graves. Many of those volunteers were football players from four area high schools.

“Hopefully by engaging the younger generation and instilling a passion for the importance of this project in them, one day, every grave out here will have a permanent marker and a lasting identification that they lived,” Woltger said.

The national website for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows says the organization looks to develop “personal and social development.” The Odd Fellows are able to purchase the headstones through fundraising and donations.

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