By Dena Forret
St. Mary’s Cemetery sits in a quiet rural setting dotted with numerous trees including twelve evergreens that were donated by relatives of family members buried there. A beautifully carved statue of Mary (below) greets you when you enter the grounds. In 2002 memorial donations paid for the services of Ben King, a nationally known chain saw artist, who carved the Blessed Virgin Mary in an eight foot tree stump. Grave stones dating from the late 1800’s are situated among other more recent grave sites.
St. Mary’s Cemetery was originally affiliated with Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Dallas Center. The first known burial (below), per monument dates, was the remains of Patrick Waters, buried in 1868. In 1879 Father P.J. Harney built the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Dallas Center. Father Harney was a young and enthusiastic priest from Tipperary, Ireland. In his will filed August 25, 1887, he stipulated, “I give and devise to the Bishop of this diocese, Rt. Reve H Cosgrove the cemetery in Grant Township… and also the cemetery near Dallas Center, Iowa with the condition attached to each that if a person of Catholic faith enjoying the privileges of the church is too poor to pay for a lot in said cemeteries he shall be given one free.”
The cemetery served the Catholic people of Waukee, Adel, and Dallas Center. On December 18, 1962 St. Mary’s Cemetery, which was originally part of the Dallas Center Sacred Heart Church Corporation which was closed and the church property owned by Sacred Heart, was deeded to St. Boniface of Waukee. The land where the church was located at 10th St. and Sycamore was sold. The cemetery remains the property of St. Boniface Church of Waukee.
Margie Kenyon, a St. Boniface parishioner, has family buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery. Her father, LaVere Seibert, was caretaker of the land for 42 years. In June of 1963, LaVere and his wife Dorothy lost a twelve year-old daughter to Leukemia. In gratitude for the gift of a plot to bury their daughter, LaVere found five old mowers that he put to good use mowing the tall cemetery grass that had been unattended for years.
Leo Weil, a deceased member of St. John’s Church in Adel, also helped manage and care for the cemetery. Leo was the “go to” man for the cemetery, acting as the manager and treasurer beginning in 1981. He worked hard to raise funds and organize work crews to revive the grounds. On Memorial Day, Leo was known to put a rose at each gravesite that was not decorated. Over the years, St. Mary’s Cemetery has been a gathering place for mass on Memorial Day.
The cemetery is two acres in size and located ¾ miles north of highway 44 on west side of R16. There are less than 200 people buried there, and more than 225 lots are marked for future burials. On average the cemetery is home to two burials a year. Anyone from St. Boniface or St. John’s and their relatives are eligible for burial with lots costing about $200 each.
To visit the cemetery start at the Casey’s store in Dallas Center, and go west on Hwy. 44 approximately 1/2 mile, and then go north on County R-16/Quinlan Avenue approximately 3.5 miles. Just north of the Brethren Church on your left is the cemetery with a U-shape drive going through it.