Grand Enterprise Initiative: How a cemetery is good for the local economy |

Grand Enterprise Initiative: How a cemetery is good for the local economy

Patrick Brower
Grand Enterprise Initiative
Patrick Brower, Grand Enterprise Initiative
Patrick Brower/Grand Enterprise Initiative

I was surprised and at first dismayed over the number of times I was asked about the Granby Cemetery during the summer.

Questions were along the lines of: “Who do I get in touch with to find a place to bury my loved one?” Or, simply, “What’s going on the with Granby Cemetery?”

And along the lines of commerce and our economy, some former longtime locals were asking local hoteliers what they can do to, well, be buried in the Granby Cemetery. People didn’t know where to start.

Ever since Nancy Stuart died, I didn’t know where to send them, other than to Teresa Clark, who has done a good job keeping things together since then.

As many may remember, Nancy Stuart of Granby, a former county commissioner and local community advocate of the highest caliber, was in charge of the Granby Cemetery Association. This association was established a long time ago to care take the Granby Cemetery and administer it. Starting in 2007, she started getting the cemetery association and the cemetery in good shape. She filed to establish it as a nonprofit and set up a board.

In 1941, George Meyer, a rancher east of Granby, transferred about 3 acres of land to the Granby Cemetery Association for the price of $1. The land is located just off County Road 60 about 2.5 miles east of Granby. Anyone who is curious about it can drive out of Granby on County Road 60 and after passing the gravel pit and a few residences, look to the right at a bottom of a hill. There’s a sign and portal that marks the short road to the cemetery.

That sign, that portal and the rebuilt gazebo at the cemetery were all part of the work that Nancy Stuart managed to improve the Granby Cemetery. I know she worked for many years quietly and behind the scenes with Teresa to protect and maintain this at times underappreciated community asset.

Now there’s a real effort underway to reestablish the Granby Cemetery Association and make it and the cemetery something that people in the community can count on for burials and a place for our dead. You could say they are bringing it back to life.

Granby attorney Frank Parker has taken on the task of getting the legalities clarified and he’s in the process of forming a board of directors for the association. He’s doing so without charging any fees. Parker reports that he’s nearly filled the board. Once the board is in place, then the process of managing the cemetery and bringing it back to good condition can start. Then people will have a way to find out how to use the cemetery for its intended purpose.

Now, with the help of volunteers at the Mountain Family Center, an effort is starting to clear up a map of the cemetery, and clean up parts of it that haven’t been maintained for a long time.

I’ve always liked the Granby Cemetery. It sits far enough away from town that a person can feel like they really are in the country while they are there. It sits on an east-facing hillside which captures the early morning sunrise and offers excellent views of the hills, mountains and valleys to the east.

I remember well the time I was escorted around the Granby Cemetery back in 1984 or 1985 by Vern Birdsill. He was on the Granby Cemetery Association at that time and I was researching a story about the Granby Cemetery. Birdsill was a former town marshal of Granby and a longtime local. He had a kind and wise disposition that made it hard for me to imagine him as the town marshal of Granby, and yet many old-timers I knew told me he handled enforcing the law in Granby with the wisdom of Solomon. He wanted to show me the plot in the cemetery he had set aside for himself when, as he put it, “my time comes.”

His gravesite was not a rectangular plot of well-groomed Kentucky bluegrass in an expanse of other graves. Rather, it was a purposely unmaintained piece of ground with long strands of cheat grass growing in abundance, a small juniper bush and two fluttering aspen trees framing the view. The plot sat at a slant to the northeast. He stood, smiling reflectively on his future burial place and said: “I love the view and that warm morning sun.”

That was the meaning of the Granby Cemetery to Vern Birdsill and the solace he took in knowing he had that particular location as a burial spot.

With the new efforts underway, the community can start to feel that solace too.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management coaching for anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He is also the author of the book “KILLDOZER: The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage.” He can be reached at 970-531-0632 or at

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