DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) – The historic De Pere Greenwood Cemetary is one of the oldest in Northeast Wisconsin according to its board and it shows, some headstones are falling over and grave sites on the river bank are at risk of being washed away, so the board is taking action to stop this.

Jewels Sowers, the De Pere Greenwood Cemetary President, said, “In the last four or five years, we have just deteriorated so much because of that wash water happening. So the DNR has finally agreed to give us a permit and we are going to restore the hill, get rid of all the buckthorn and we’re going to restore the cemetery to what it was as the beautiful historic Greenwood Cemetary.”

This project comes with a hefty price tag it will take about $2 million to stop the river erosion from swallowing more graves.

“One of the big causes in the last few years is the wakeboarders,” said Sowers. “They produce big three-foot waves which wash away the shoreline. We have lost a lot. In the early 1900s before that just erosion we lost some graves.”

Sowers said each headstone and plot is privately owned so they are working on finding living relatives to pay to fix the damaged headstones.

“Literally falling and leaning. This is just an example,” “We have probably 10-12 or them right now that are on the ground and probably a good maybe 1,000 or more that are ready to go.”

The cemetery has about 3,000 people buried there in total, the board is launching a fundraising campaign to keep each grave in top shape.

“The history is what brought me to want to help out here so much more because these are parents and grandparents,” said Sowers. “And their graves need to be preserved. They need to be remembered and not forgotten.”

Sowers explained the green and black growth on the stones is called lichens and it has to be removed because it is slowly eating away at the rock and the names carved into them.

The board is holding a cemetery cleaning on Tuesday at 9 am to remove the growth from these historic stones. You can learn more about getting involved on the Greenwood Cemetary’s Facebook Page.