About half a mile north of Exit 8 on I-74 sits Mount Hope Cemetery, the final resting place for some 5,000 people.
For the stewards of the cemetery, however, it’s more than a burial ground. They see it as a place full of history and beauty, as well as the gateway to Covington, Ind.
“A lot of people tell me ‘What a beautiful, clean city you have,’ and the cemetery is part of that image,” said Harry Hoagland, who holds one of six seats on the Board of Trustees for the Mount Hope Cemetery Association.
Even though the cemetery looks attractive enough from the road, it’s in dire need of upgrades according to the board. Out of 200 trees on the property, about 20 percent need to be trimmed or replaced. Roadways need resurfaced and the brick entranceway posts need to be sandblasted and tuck-pointed. There are other signs of deterioration, like crumbling concrete and gravesites that have fallen into disrepair because some families no longer have descendants in the area.
“This is my home and I want my kids and grandkids to be able to say ‘Isn’t this a beautiful place where grandpa is buried,’” Hoagland said. “I don’t want this to get away from us and I know it can happen quickly.”
The little known Mount Hope Cemetery Association was founded in 1939 when it took over two parcels of land along Stringtown Road from what was then called the Oddfellows Lodge Cemetery. The property covers a little more than 40 acres, about half of it on the east side of the road and half of it on the west side. The board makes the decisions about the cemetery and Rich Crouse, who has been the caretaker of the cemetery for the past 23 years, does all the legwork, including the mowing. And it’s a job he’s passionate about.