Cemetery caretaker honors Veterans buried in Urbana

An Urbana native gives her time to honor the sacrifices made by the men and women who've served the United States.
Published: May. 29, 2023 at 6:27 PM CDT
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URBANA, Iowa (KCRG) - Kisling Cemetery in Urbana is one of five cemeteries where you’ll find Barb Henry.

The Urbana native lives in Cedar Rapids, but she returns home to help maintain the headstones of Veterans. Using cleaning instructions from The Good Cemetarian Historical Preservation Project, Henry feels a duty to honor those who served our country.

“It doesn’t matter when they served, if they served in conflict or not, they’re still a Veteran. They deserve our respect and our gratitude,” said Henry.

Henry’s task of caring for the headstones started about a decade ago in Kisling Cemetery.

“It was very disheartening to me to see these Veterans weren’t recognized, and then you start looking, and you’ve got War of 1812, Civil War. I was like I need to do something. This needs to change,” she said.

For Memorial Day weekend, she goes a step further. She makes sure the more than 300 Veterans buried in Urbana’s cemeteries are recognized, laying a flower on their graves. She also makes a point to say their name.

“A hero is never truly forgotten until their name is no longer said,” said Henry.

Henry’s passion for honoring those who served may come from her family’s history of service.

“On my dad’s side, a friend of mine has traced our family history back. My five times great-grandfather fought with George Washington at Valley Forge,” she said.

Family history or not, Henry would love more people to take time each Memorial Day to honor the lives lost.

“Buy a couple bouquets, take them home, break them up, go to your local cemetery, find the Veterans, lay a flower down and say their name. That is all I really want to see, but I would like to see that snowball across the country,” said Barb Henry.

Henry spends her own money on the cleaning supplies and to pay for the flowers she lays on each grave. This year, American Legion Auxiliary #264 in Urbana made a donation to help cover the cost of the flowers.