The day was designed to offer a blessing and dedication of the new
Forever Home Pet Cemetery on the shelter grounds, and also to offer
pet parents an opportunity to have their pets blessed by the Rev.
Mark Evans of Trinity Episcopal Church.
The day began with HSLC
committee member Dennis Schrader introducing Pastor Tami Werschey of
Hartsburg United Methodist Church for the invocation.
Immediately following the invocation, the McLaughlin family sang
a touching song that brought total silence to the group at hand.
Brittany McLaughlin introduced herself and her father-in-law, Dan,
and then said the song they had selected to open the day was a love
song, but it could easily be translated into how people feel about
their pets. The song opened with "I'll walk in the rain by your side
/ I'll cling to the warmth of your tiny hand / I'll do anything to
help you understand / I'll love you more than anybody can."
After the song, Schrader introduced the HSLC president, Ellen
Burbage welcomed all who had come out and recognized several
city, county and township representatives who were present. She then
spoke about the dream of the pet cemetery that began as a basic idea
just one year ago. She commented on the hard work of the committee
who made the cemetery a reality.
Burbage then introduced the committee: co-chairs Marilyn Wheat
and Dennis Schrader, and members Dan Bailey, Mike Turner, Judy Conzo
and Jan Malerich. She then asked Schrader and Wheat to tell the
group about their work.
Schrader said the idea came to him last year as he was driving
past and saw the vast amount of space behind the shelter. He
wondered if there wasn't something the HSLC could do with that
property. He then thought about a cemetery. Later, at the annual
Ales for Tales event last year, he sat down with Marilyn Wheat and
pitched his idea to her. She immediately told him that she had the
same idea, and together they began formulating to make it a reality.
He talked about the hard work of the committee and expressed
appreciation to Wheat, who kept driving the committee in the right
Schrader said they had several hurdles and hoops to jump through
as they discovered they would have to treat the cemetery like a
subdivision. The committee had to get approval from the local
planning commission, as well as the city of Lincoln.
He acknowledged Prairie Engineers of Illinois for their help in
drawing out the plans for the cemetery.
He said phase one of the cemetery was 323 graves, which are now
ready for assignment. He added that when the cemetery is completed,
there will be spaces for over 1,000 pet resting places.
He noted the first of what will be many gardens and noted the
stones that have been donated by Manley Monuments. He also noted the
recent donations of trees that are being planted throughout the
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Schrader said the proceeds from the pet cemetery would go to
support the HSLC. It takes approximately $60,000 a year to keep the
no-kill shelter running. He reminded the attendees of all the
fundraisers that the HSLC has annually to keep the shelter going,
and he said the money raised from the cemetery would add to the
support of the shelter.
Finally, Schrader talked about the gazebo that will be built in
the future and how it will be available for pet funerals, also for
pet weddings and other events.
After he finished, Pastor Werschey led the group in the singing
of "This Is My Father's World." She then blessed the cemetery by
sprinkling of water on the stone in the garden.
Burbage wrapped up this part of the day by saying a few words
about HSLC. She said her original role had been to talk about who
they are and what they have done, but she said in looking out on the
group in front of her, she knew that everyone there already knew a
lot about the shelter.
Instead she acknowledged those who have helped the shelter
throughout the years since 2006. She acknowledged the donation of
the land by the Burwell family, the erection of the shelter by the
Lincoln High School LTEC program, and the dollars of support that
have come from the community.
"I have lived in a lot of places in my life, and this is the most
generous, wonderful place to be," she said, "and I want to thank you
again for everything you have done for us."
The McLaughlins sang a second song. Before beginning, Brittany
McLaughlin said that their first song had been in the perspective of
a pet as a puppy and how their owners care for them, and the second
song was more about what people feel toward their animals as those
animals mature. The lyrics of the song "Follow Me," by John Denver,
included these words: "It's long been on my mind / You know it's
been a long, long time / I've tried to find the way that I can make
you understand / The way I feel about you and just how much I need
you / To be there where I can talk to you / When there's no one else
When the song was finished, the Rev. Mark Evans offered a prayer
of blessing on all the animals. When he was finished, nearly every
pet owner brought their animals forward for individual blessings.
Evans touched the animals' heads with water and said a blessing on
With the blessing came another tender moment. The Rev. Evans
reminded all that the pets are God's creatures and would be watched
over, which brought tears and smiles to those in attendance.
[By NILA SMITH]