Fall project gives chapel a sharper look

It’s December. Cold air, leaden gray skies and a thin bit of snow have dulled the summer sunlit greens and blue skies in Mankato. But while the summer turned to early fall in September, the Calvary Chapel was getting some significant updates.

Caretaker Terry Miller, Jake Winch and Mike Miller painted the steeple peak to give the finishing touches to a re-shingled roof and some stone tuckpointing. Given the height and steepness of the roof, that might be considered a daunting task. But the small crew had the equipment and the moxie to treat it like any other task.

Along with all the miscellaneous equipment involved, the crew used a boom lift. Jake worked as the lift operator, giving Terry and Mike easier access to the impossibly steep rooflines.

“We actually had a great time!” said Terry. “The views were incredible.”

Terry was especially pleased with the visual appeal of the new black shingles. “I thought it was a little risky, but once they were up it was really a sharp look.”

Restoring something that historic also gives a person a special sense of satisfaction, he added.

Left to right: Jake Winch, Mike Miller and Terry Miller
New shingles

Now taking orders for Christmas wreaths

It’s hard to think about the holidays without remembering Christmas past and departed loved ones.

Christmas Wreath

If you’d like to decorate a loved one’s grave with some holiday color, Calvary Cemetery is now taking orders for Christmas wreaths. Ordered wreaths will be placed on graves the week of Thanksgiving and will be removed after New Year’s Day (weather permitting).

These 25-inch wreaths are Balsam Fir and feature a red bow with white-tipped pinecones.

To order your wreath for $30, call Terry Miller at 507.995.1010.

All Souls Day Mass on November 2nd

Father Paul
Father Paul

Calvary Cemetery Chapel will be the site for a special All Souls Day Mass to be held on Wednesday, November 2nd at 9:30 a.m.

Father Paul van de Crommert of North Mankato’s Holy Rosary Catholic Church will be the celebrant. Father Paul is also actively serving on the cemetery’s board of directors.

Confused about All Souls Day, All Saints Day and Halloween?

The Catholic Church celebrates All Saints Day, or All Hallows, on the first day of November each year. Therefore the last day of October is All Hallows Eve, or Halloween (a contraction of “All Hallows Evening). November 2nd is All Souls Day. According to Catholic Online (www.catholiconline.org), here is the difference in the celebrations:

In Western Christian theology, the day [All Saints Day] commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries. In the Roman Catholic Church, the next day, All Souls’ Day, specifically commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven. Catholics celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual communion between those in the state of grace who have died and are either being purified in purgatory or are in heaven (the ‘church penitent’ and the ‘church triumphant’, respectively), and the ‘church militant’ who are the living. Other Christian traditions define, remember and respond to the saints in different ways.

Halloween is not a religious celebration in the Catholic Church. It is a popular celebration revolving around the theme of using humor to confront the power of death.

Tom Miller’s life is etched in stone

A cemetery without monuments would be like a book with blank pages. The monuments provide the illustrations and what’s written on those monuments tell the stories of the fathers, mothers, sons and daughters laid to rest there.

Tom Miller at work with his computer, creating a
design for customer approval.

Although the monuments at Calvary Cemetery were made by many authors over the last 100 years, those created over the last 30 years were mostly made by Tom Miller, owner of Monuments by Miller. Current estimates indicate that 19 out of 20 monuments going into Calvary are his creation.

Tom comes by that business naturally. For one thing, his work is all over town. He is the most visible sculptor in the Mankato area, creator of the town’s largest, permanent showpieces – the Korean Soldier, the Indian Chief and the Buffalo at the intersection of Front Street and Main Street are all his creations.

He is also the son of the cemetery’s past full-time caretaker, Jerry Miller, and the brother of the present full-time caretaker, Terry Miller. So a mix of reliability, quality, reasonable pricing, sheer artistic talent, strong referral ties and a long-standing presence in the business have carved out a lion’s share of the Calvary monument trade.

Tom creating ice sculptures at the St Paul Winter
Carnival early in his career.

His pieces at Calvary vary in nature, size and grandeur. The Fallenstein Cross is notable for its size; the Haefner Angel is smaller but elegant. Tom is also the author of sectional centerpieces, like the Wings of Hope sculpture and the Resurrection Garden Cross.

Along with Tom’s standout pieces scattered throughout Calvary, there are the many stones that are more modest in size and scope – upright and flat monuments that aren’t landmarks in the cemetery.

The warm months are busy times for his business. While burials happen all year, spring and summer are catch-up times for those put off by the families who opt for more pleasant weather. That’s an option becoming more and more popular, especially with the upswing in cremations. Typically, Tom will have a big influx in orders before Memorial Day. With a late spring that means long hours in catching up.

“But they will all be done,” he says.

Although Tom is old school when it comes to keeping commitments, he is adept at using computer technology for design, especially typography. Matching letters and numbers for new work on existing stones is a constant task. There are times Tom is adding a “deceased” date on a stone that was originally set up years ago. As he demonstrates font matching on the computer, he points to a nearby desk that supports an expensive new printer for creating sandblasting stencils.

“Every job is different. Especially now, with all the new features available,” he said.

The industry has evolved far beyond just chisel and hammer tools. Etching photographic images onto stone with lasers has become very popular.

It’s even now possible to have a chip reader on a headstone that enables a visitor to use a smartphone to see a recorded message from the deceased.

Memorial Day 2022 approaching quickly

Tom Miller of Monuments by Miller engraves a marker at Calvary. A late Spring has the regional cemetery industry scrambling to be ready for Memorial Day 2022.

Calvary Cemetery’s biggest event of the year, Memorial Day, is just days away and the caretaker crew is scrambling to prepare, reeling from the delays of a late Spring.

“Things are moving fast. We just hope for good weather,” commented Terry Miller, Calvary Caretaker.

The special Memorial Day Mass will be held at 8:45 a.m. on Monday, May 30th. Father John Kunz of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church will be the celebrant.

“In the past, we’ve had anywhere from 100 to 700 people attending. It really depends on the weather,” said Terry.

While the Mass is said within Calvary Chapel, many of the visitors sit outside on lawn chairs and hear the service through the P.A. system.

Immediately following Mass, American Legion Post 11 will conduct a ceremony at the veterans’ memorial on the east side of the chapel.

Terry has some good advice for the event visitors:

  • Park on Goodyear Avenue in front the cemetery and walk in to avoid being blocked in the cemetery.
  • Bring lawn chairs in case you cannot get a seat inside the chapel.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather that morning.
  • Ground decorations are allowed to be placed on sites starting Monday, May 23rd but must be removed by Monday, June 6th. (To decorate year round, you must have a cemetery-approved pot stand in a concrete pad — certain areas only. Please check with staff.)
  • No glass containers are allowed — please anchor flowers well or the wind will take them.

In memory of THE chairman

Fred and Dixie Muellerleile

In the closing months of a tremendously difficult year, 2021 also saw the passing of Calvary Cemetery’s greatest advocate and champion, Fred Muellerleile.

Fred died on October 21st at 97. His wife, Dixie, passed just 19 days afterward. Their dedication to each other mirrored Fred’s decades long devotion to Calvary. Fred’s obituary can be found here: https://www.mankatomortuary.com/obituary/7689146. But this post is more about his involvement with the cemetery and the lasting legacy Fred built.

A member of the Calvary Board of Directors and Supervisor of Operations since 1988, the care and development of the property and its service delivery became Fred’s outstanding passion, outlasting and overshadowing his many other civic endeavors and offices. Fred was still a board member when he took his last breath; no one on the board had the heart or inclination to propose a resignation, even when the practicality of it became self-evident. The cemetery was so important to Fred, and his long contributions so formidable, that the board was more comfortable with keeping him on the roster, whatever his involvement level.

Tom Miller, Fred and Terry Miller

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that Fred was instrumental in building Calvary into what it is today,” said Terry Miller, Calvary Caretaker. “Fred was the support, the force, behind modernizing the entire operation. Get this, when he started in 1988 we were still using a beat-up Model A pickup with a crank start!”

Terry added that the cemetery also had no office, no phone, no water. They did have an outhouse.

During Fred’s tenure, many key restoration and development projects were undertaken and successfully completed. Fred’s advocacy, Terry’s energy, the board’s support, and the generous reinforcement from the Calvary families and the community became a magic mixture that saw every endeavor to successful conclusion.

Keystone projects:

— The restoration of Calvary Chapel

— Many major equipment acquistions

— The Rosary Cremation Landscaping

— The establishment of Resurrection Garden

— The Wings of Hope Dedication

— The wrought iron fence (now in construction)

— The cemetery office and shed construction

“If Calvary needed it, and it made business sense, Fred was for it,” said Terry. “He always amazed me. I mean, I’d study up on (consumer) trends, talk with some of our families, and come up with an improvement idea. Then Fred and I would talk it over and, together with the board, we’d find a way to make it happen.”

Their success is evident. The property is in pristine condition, a favorite walk for many, admired throughout the diocese, and despite an aggressive improvement agenda, in fine financial condition, according to Terry. This year there were a record number of burials.

Fred was Terry’s champion, co-collaborator, mentor and a father figure of sorts. Terry’s father (who was the caretaker before Terry), Jerome “Jerry” Miller, had passed on years before.

“It’s easy to miss him,” said Terry. “Fred was a part of this so long, you know what I mean?”

For generations to come, visitors at Calvary will be able to stroll the grounds, visit the final resting places of loved ones and enjoy the well-kept quiet. They may not know how Fred was such a founding father of the positive karma they will likely feel, but Fred’s contributions will live on.

Fred’s work at Calvary earned him two Bishop’s medals, one in 2006 and one in 2015.

Now taking orders for Christmas wreaths

It’s hard to think about the holidays without remembering Christmas past and departed loved ones.

Christmas Wreath

If you’d like to decorate a loved one’s grave with some holiday color, Calvary Cemetery is now taking orders for Christmas wreaths. Ordered wreaths will be placed on graves the week of Thanksgiving and will be removed after New Year’s Day (weather permitting).

These 25-inch wreaths are Balsam Fir and feature a red bow with white-tipped pinecones.

To order your wreath for $30, call Terry Miller at 507.995.1010.

All Souls Day Mass on November 2nd

Father Paul
Father Paul

Calvary Cemetery Chapel will be the site for a special All Souls Day Mass to be held on Tuesday, November 2nd at 9 a.m.

Father Paul van de Crommert of North Mankato’s Holy Rosary Catholic Church will be the celebrant. Father Paul is also actively serving on the cemetery’s board of directors.

Confused about All Souls Day, All Saints Day and Halloween?

The Catholic Church celebrates All Saints Day, or All Hallows, on the first day of November each year. Therefore the last day of October is All Hallows Eve, or Halloween (a contraction of “All Hallows Evening). November 2nd is All Souls Day. According to Catholic Online (www.catholiconline.org), here is the difference in the celebrations:

In Western Christian theology, the day [All Saints Day] commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries. In the Roman Catholic Church, the next day, All Souls’ Day, specifically commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven. Catholics celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual communion between those in the state of grace who have died and are either being purified in purgatory or are in heaven (the ‘church penitent’ and the ‘church triumphant’, respectively), and the ‘church militant’ who are the living. Other Christian traditions define, remember and respond to the saints in different ways.

Halloween is not a religious celebration in the Catholic Church. It is a popular celebration revolving around the theme of using humor to confront the power of death.

Turkey trio

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Photo by Tom Miller

It almost looks like these three turkeys are posing. Although turkeys strutting through Calvary Cemetery are a common site, Tom Miller (Monuments by Miller) was able to catch this trio in unusual symmetry.

Our pleasant September weather has made Calvary a great place for a good stroll. Visitors are welcome between dawn and dusk.