BONNERS FERRY — Jim Thompson gave to his country through the military, and now he is giving to the Grandview Cemetery. When he noticed that the once grand old part of the cemetery was fading from brilliant green to a dried-out yellow and brown, he decided to do take action.
“When I was back in school it was all manicured,” said Thompson. “It looked beautiful.”
Now the old water line is deteriorating and full of rust which clogs the sprinklers, and a new line is desperately needed.
A donation account has been set up at Mountain West Bank under Old Grandview Cemetery Water Line and donations are coming in, but Thompson said that it is building very slowly. They have close to $6,000 in the account and need around $60,000 to complete the project.
“The community’s support for this project is greatly needed,” Thompson said.
Thompson has been volunteering his time to the Grandview Cemetery for about three years. The old trees that stand like protective sentinels over the old part of the cemetery shed their needles and pine cones, covering the ground and blanketing the grass. Thompson spends his time during the spring raking all of these up.
Other volunteers have come to help, along with the Boy Scouts. This year, Thompson found help from kids who need to do community service. After having several different small teams of young people, the numbers dwindled until only one girl remained. But she stuck it out. At the end, Thompson rewarded her with pizza.
During his time at the cemetery, Thompson noticed a man and his wife trying to take care of an area of the cemetery where their son is buried.
“They kept putting sod, but there was no water, so it kept dying. I felt bad for them, so I brought sprinklers up,” said Thompson. “All of these sprinklers, I got one at a time, to keep this green.”
Piece by tiny piece, Thompson works on the vast old section of cemetery, using sprinklers and hoses that he provides himself.
“I went to a yard sale. I was just looking for sprinklers. All I found was a movie,” he said with a chuckle.
After purchasing the movie, Thompson asked if there were any hoses or sprinklers. The woman called her husband out.
The husband recognized him and said, “Oh, you are Jim! You take care of the cemetery.”
Thompson answered, “Well ... I try.”
The husband then took him back and gave him five hoses.
“Then I went and bought three cheap sprinklers. It was all I could afford,” said Thompson.
Thompson started with one tiny section and watered it. Some areas he seeded. Slowly, like a tiny oasis, the grass began to grow again, a stark contrast against the dry, dead expanse adjacent to it.
Thompson also cuts back some of the brush, and lines the ground with lawn clippings brought from his house, to keep the brush at bay. As that rots down, he explains that the grass will replace it over time.
Thompson brings his own tools and equipment that he uses, keeping them in a shed that he also brought up. Along with his time and tools, he also donates money to the water line fund.
“I do jobs for other people. I keep half of the funds for gas and stuff, and the other half I put into the water fund,” said Thompson.
Some of the large trees in the old setion are riddled with holes. They are dead, no longer providing shade to the graves beneath them. They are now marked with orange, designating them as hazard trees that need to be removed.
“I went and found a guy that said, if they get the trees cut into whatever length they want, and they put them out in the parking lot, he will bring his portable mill out and cut it for lumber — and he will take half maybe, or a little less than half,” explained Thompson. “They could sell the rest of it to put into the water fund or they could build a bigger shed.”
With Grandview Cemetery only operated by a small board of volunteers, and relying solely on funding from burials, plots, headstone settings, and donations, a large project like the water line is a daunting task.
Thompson hopes that the community can help in whatever way they can. There is so much history perched high on the hill, overlooking the Kootenai River and valley below.
The land was originally purchased by the Village of Bonners Ferry in 1907 for use as a cemetery. The Grandview Cemetery Association was created in 1921, although the history of burials dates back to 1892.
For those wanting to donate to the fund, donations can be made at Mountain West Bank under Old Grandview Cemetery Water Line.
To donate time or materials, call Jim Thompson, 208-255-9563