- Sean Cayton
As far as Will DeBoer is concerned, it's been a slow year for the dead.
DeBoer manages Evergreen Cemetery, southern Colorado's largest last resting place, which harbors nearly 90,000 bodies within its 200-plus acres on the south side of Colorado Springs. Normally, upwards of 700 people are interred there annually, though this year DeBoer says he'll be lucky to get 600.
It's not that the most-avoided part of life (death, not jury duty) has become any less inevitable. Instead, the puttering economy has forced people to opt for cremation.
A slump in numbers, however, is not the big news at Evergreen. Early last week, a mausoleum was broken into and desecrated by a vandal or vandals who smashed through five inches of concrete and made off with the skull and torso skeleton of Mary Bacon, who died in 1907.
Currently, there are no suspects in the crime; DeBoer says he doubts anyone will be caught.
The cemetery manager says that working in the death industry teaches the necessity of humor and, as evidenced during a recent interview, a tendency to wax philosophic. But as he's sure to note, that there's nothing funny about disrespecting the dead.
"We spend a lot of time and effort taking care of this place, so then when you're violated like this, it's devastating," DeBoer says. "It's kinda like someone pulled the rug out from underneath you."
As an unlikely comparison DeBoer recalls the funeral of P. K. Klein, sergeant-at-arms for the Sons of Silence motorcycle club, who was gunned down at a Colorado Springs bar in 1993.
DeBoer says it remains the most impressive funeral he's ever witnessed, with the pipes of 400 Harleys blazing through the grounds.
"When they were through, there wasn't so much as a cigarette butt. The place was immaculate," DeBoer recalls. "These so-called 'outlaws,' even they had respect for the dead."
photo by Sean Cayton