Calvary welcomes new board members

At its January meeting, the Calvary Board of Directors welcomed two new members.

To represent all four Catholic parishes in the Greater Mankato / North Mankato area, the Board prefers to have a member of the clergy and a lay representative from each parish.

To achieve this level of representation, the Board welcomed two new lay members.

Doug Sjulstad

Doug Sjulstad is the new lay representative from St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church. In addition to being a successful salesman at Lagers of Mankato, Inc. for over 30 years, Doug worked several summers at Calvary Cemetery with the current caretaker, Terry Miller.

Tom Kiffe also joined the board as lay representative for Holy Rosary Catholic Church in North Mankato. Tom (photo not available) also has experience in the funeral business. Before he retired, Tom worked with Mankato Mortuary for several years.

“Having these new lay representatives is great,” said Terry. “But having people who have some past experience with Calvary is an extra benefit.”

In other business, the Board reviewed projects completed in 2015 and projects up for completion in 2016.

One of the finished projects was the installation of new carpeting at the base of the Calvary Chapel altar.

The most significant 2016 project will be the completion of the Wings of Hope addition for children lost in pregnancy. This innovative addition is scheduled for completion in this spring.

(For more information on Wings of Hope see previous blog posts.)

Calvary Chapel altar





More about gravestones


Tom Miller

Tom Miller

On November 12th, we published a post about cemetery markers or gravestones as the start of an intended series. That post included information about marker requirements at Calvary and discussed why it’s better to order a marker before it’s needed.

One of the posts in this series was going to be about the history of gravestones. But internet research revealed a fabulous article already exists on the International Southern Cemetery Gravestones Association website: .

Along with information about the history of gravestones and the evolution of public cemeteries, the ISCGA site has a great depth of material on the different types of markers, along with good practical advice on “Choosing a Gravestone for Mom or Dad,” along with “Inspirational Verses” for gravestones and even information on “Pet Gravestones and Markers.”

There are a lot of synonyms for “gravestones” – headstones, tombstones, markers, monuments. A visit to almost any large cemetery will also show you that there can be a huge variety of shapes and sizes.

Most of the markers created for Calvary Cemetery are now done by Tom Miller, well-known Mankato area sculptor ( ). In addition to many of the signature monuments at Calvary, Tom has created some of the prominent landmarks in Mankato, including the limestone buffalo that showcases downtown’s Reconciliation Park, along with the “Winter Warrior” statue and Korean Soldier memorial at the nearby Blue Earth County Library.

Tom has been creating cemetery markers for 30 years and his many of his creations appear in cemeteries in a 60-mile radius around Mankato. According to Tom, about 70 percent of the markers he creates are upright and 30 percent flat. Surprisingly, that has not changed over the years.

In general, creating a stone marker takes six to eight weeks. But a piece that

This monument, by Tom Miller, is one of cemetery's most beautiful works.

This monument, by Tom Miller, is one of Calvary’s most beautiful markers.

involves custom statuary, like the Haefner Angel, can take four to five months.

Tom says some people will wait for years to get a grave marked. Sometimes it’s just facing the reality that a loved one is gone.

“A lot of times, it’s that finality,” he said. “When you have that stone up, it finalizes everything. Some parents can’t handle that yet.”

Tom advocates planning ahead whenever possible.

“Done in advance eliminates family squabbles,” he said, adding that while he’s seen some heated arguments over the years, people in southern Minnesota are generally very pleasant and a pleasure to work with.


Snowless winter ends

Weeks of unseasonably snowless November and December weather ended as a heavy snowfall settled in the Greater Mankato area during the last 24 hours.

The snow is slowing traffic all over southern Minnesota as plows continue to work to clear the roads and parking lots.

At Calvary Cemetery this snow is welcome; snow helps insulate the ground, keeping in heat and trapping moisture. This makes the ground easier to excavate for funerals and provides moisture for the grass in the spring.

Caretaker Terry Miller reports that the Calvary roads are in good shape following this snowstorm. He estimates that the 40-acre facility received between 9 and 10 inches of snow in the last 24 hours.

The Calvary crew works diligently throughout the winter to keep the cemetery roads clear for visitors, especially during visiting hours between dawn and dusk.




Deadline for 2015 donations swiftly approaching

As we head swiftly to the end of the Year 2015, many people try to tie up the year’s financial decisions and planning.

Calvary Caretaker Terry Miller says that the cemetery does accept tax-deductible donations to help with the facility’s continual upkeep.

“Most people don’t realize the cemetery is a separate entity of the church and runs its own budget,” Terry said. “So donations are much appreciated.”

The cemetery gets its income from property sales and grave opening and closings.

This year, like last year, the number of funerals is down from the typical average of 100.

Terry explained that the cemetery operates on a break-even budget every year in keeping with its mission of public service.

Anyone interested in making a tax-deductible donation to Calvary Cemetery can call Terry at 507-995-1010.

Christmas visits more pleasant this year

calvary wreaths in grass 1While Christmas is a season of hope and joy, it is also a season of remembrance.

Even the happy memories of Christmas Past remind us that time is a ribbon that runs only forward. As we unpack yuletide heirlooms or look through photo albums, those no longer with us come to mind. These reminders and the emotions of the season can have a powerful effect. It’s all too easy to remember the image of Tiny Tim’s crutch, carefully preserved in the Crachit’s chimney corner.

“Christmas can be hard on families with a recent loss,” notes Caretaker Terry Miller.

This Christmas, it’s a bit easier to make a stop at Calvary and remember the good cheer we had with those now passed. The unseasonably warm winter has brought in more holiday visitors than usual. Without the snow and ice to mask the stones and grass, it’s easier to find specific sites and have a relatively comfortable visit.

As always, Calvary is open for visitors from dawn to dusk. Over 240 Christmas wreaths are now on display — the largest number in Calvary history.

“Wreath sales go up every year,” said Terry. “People seem to appreciate the chance to remember a loved one that way.”

Special Note: Terry and the Calvary Cemetery Board of Directors extend a special Season’s Greeting and Merry Christmas to all families with loved ones laid to rest at Calvary and all those who volunteered time or donations this year to help ensure Calvary’s mission of perpetual care.

Area author Rachael Hanel talks shop at Calvary

Caretaker Terry Miller and author Rachael Hanel

Caretaker Terry Miller and author Rachael Hanel

“I like to visit cemeteries when I travel – this is usually the first thing I do once I get some free time.”

from Rachael Hanel’s blog, We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down ( )

Calvary Cemetery is made for visitors. Some visitors appear daily, usually walking around the grounds or destination driven to a specific resting place. Other visitors show up annually or less frequently, maybe Memorial Day or at Christmas.

And then there are visitors who grace the grounds for moments of peace or spiritual connections. After all, Calvary Cemetery is consecrated ground; a peaceful place fit for reflection.

And every great once in a while, Calvary receives a celebrity. So it was recently when local author Rachael Hanel stopped by to see Caretaker Terry Miller.

Rachael’s autobiographical book, We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter, is the story of her childhood in the Waseca area. Her father was the caretaker of a collection of cemeteries in the area.

Her story is about growing up, about cemeteries, about funerals and about how we come to terms with death. Let’s face it – sooner or later we all attend funerals or mourn a family member or friend. The book is well worth the read from many perspectives.

Of course, being a caretaker’s daughter AND an author who writes about the lifestyle is an instant passport to celebrity guest status at Calvary Cemetery. So Rachael’s visit was a special time for Terry to get to “talk shop.”

Terry’s wife, Deb, had read Rachael’s book in the recent past and was captivated by all the commonalities between Terry’s life and Rachael’s memoir. Since Rachael is now an Assistant Professor at Minnesota State University – Mankato, it was probably just a matter of time before she and Terry met.

For Terry and Rachael, it was a rare chance to talk about things you’d probably only discuss with someone “in the business” and about the people they mutually knew. For a spectator…well, it was a chance to learn. As they sat in Terry’s cemetery office, they talked about their mutual dislike for artificial flowers, and the best and worst parts of being a caretaker.

“Dis-internment…that’s definitely the worst job,” said Terry.

“Just not sure what you’re going to find,” Rachael quipped back.

The two probably could have talked all day without a hitch, covering everything from pruning equipment to how fun it was to talk with people who “got it.” Both of them spent plenty of time with their caretaker fathers, playing on cemetery grounds or mowing grass on endless summer afternoons.

If you haven’t had a chance to read We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down or explore Rachael’s blog, you have an opportunity for some great entertainment.

A special thanks to Rachael for her time, and a special thanks to Amber Power, Interim Associate Development Officer at Minnesota State University – Mankato, for arranging Rachael’s visit to Calvary. Rachael’s book is available at Barnes & Noble or online from


Fred & Dixie Muellerleile honored by Bishop Quinn

quinn kunz muellerleillie

Bishop John M. Quinn and Father Kunz stand behind Dixie and Fred Muellerleile.

Fred and Dixie Muellerleile were honored by friends, family and Bishop John M. Quinn during Mass at St. John the Baptist Church on Saturday evening, December 5th, 2015.

A medal, certificate and blessing were bestowed on the smiling couple for over 30 years of service to Calvary Cemetery as Fred’s leadership on the Cemetery Board was officially acknowledged by the Diocese of Winona.

Bishop Quinn thanked the couple for their dedication during the Mass. Fred

bishop and dixie

Dixie Muellerleile and Bishop Quinn

and Dixie’s daughter, Mary Fowler, had the honor of pinning the medals on her father and mother. Other family members and friends were close at hand to add their congratulations.

Bishop Quinn’s recognition of stewardship and dedication, although given glowingly to the Muellerleiles, was also held up as a shining example to the group of newly confirmed teenagers also present at the Mass.

“Fred has been there for the cemetery for years and years,” said Terry Miller, Calvary Caretaker. “People don’t realize how medalmuch something like that matters until it’s time to bury a family member. Fred’s hard work on the cemetery board has definitely been a big part of why Calvary is successful and beautiful.”

Terry added that there is no question that Fred’s term of office is the longest in Calvary’s 129-year history. He also clarified that Fred’s time on the board is definitely not over.

“Fred’s not retiring by any means,” he stated.


Muellerleiles to be honored


Fr John M Kunz poses in the Calvary Chapel with Fred and Dixie Muellerleile. Fred is the Senior Member and Supervisor of the Calvary Cemetery Board of Directors.


For over 30 years of service to Calvary Cemetery, Fred and Dixie Muellerleile will be honored by Bishop John M. Quinn.

The event will take place during the 5:15 p.m. Mass at Saint John the Baptist Church in Mankato on Saturday, December 5, 2015.

“From what I understand, Fred and Dixie are to receive the Bishop’s medal for their long-time service to Calvary Cemetery,” commented Terry Miller, Calvary Caretaker.

Details of the event will be published in next week’s blog.

Of markers and monuments

As far back as history has made record, graves have been marked to identify who rests within.

In fact, the term “unmarked grave” conveys a sense of disregard about the

The Follmann Crypt is the final resting place of a Mankato doctor and his wife.

The Follmann Crypt is the final resting place of a Mankato doctor and his wife.

deceased, if not criminal concealment.

According to Terry Miller, Calvary Cemetery caretaker, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead in regard to the choice of marker.

“People who do things ahead of time get what they want,” he said. Letting your survivors choose your marker may lead to unwanted consequences. Terry explained that a grieving family tends to make snap decisions. The size of the monument, what’s engraved or etched on it, is sometimes not what the deceased would have wanted.

Some people are very concerned about what their marker looks like and what it says about them.

“The monument is what people are going to walk up and see after you’re gone,” said Terry. “It’s part of how you’re remembered.”

It’s important to know your options when choosing a marker.

At Calvary Cemetery, by order of the Diocese of Winona, all graves must be marked. The marker or monument must be made of granite, although brass is acceptable in some cases for deceased veterans.

There are basically two styles of marker — flat stone or upright monument. Some areas of Calvary allow for the upright monument, others are designated for flat stones only.

The Kron Angel is a massive sculpture and one of Calvary's noted landmarks.

The Kron Angel is a massive sculpture and one of Calvary’s noted landmarks.

In general, basic flat stone markers cost about $500 to $800. Upright monuments start at about $1,400 and typically run to $5,000. Those can take six weeks or more to have created.

However, the notable exceptions to cost and creation are very visible at Calvary. The massive Kron Angel, weighing in at an estimated 24,000 pounds and shipped from Belgium many years ago, must have been lavishly expensive. The Follmann Mausoleum, built around 1910 for a Mankato doctor and his wife, has granite walls two feet thick. It cost $11,000 at that time. That relative cost value today is estimated at $283,000 (

A future post will explore some of the many options now available for imaging, etching and engraving on markers and monuments.


Calvary now taking orders for Christmas wreaths

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

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 last week of November 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 $25, call Terry Miller at 507.995.1010.


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