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COMMUNITY GETS ITS 1ST CEMETERY

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In most Western communities, history is chronicled in the epitaphs carved into headstones and grave markers in the town cemetery.

Wendover may be the exception.Until last month, the community did not have its own cemetery. For generations, its dead have been buried elsewhere in Tooele County, in Nevada or as far away as Salt Lake City.

"They were buried anywhere people wanted to have them put. A lot of people were cremated," said Marie Johnston, a longtime resident who served on a committee to establish the town's first cemetery.

Admittedly, the leaders of the movement were the town's older residents. "I never even thought about it until I got older," Johnston said.

The 10-acre site, located immediately on a hill north of the city below a rock formation locals call Needle Point, overlooks the remnants of Wendover Air Base and the desert.

Wendover never had a cemetery because most of the land surrounding the tiny town is owned either by the U.S. Air Force or the Bureau of Land Management. Most of the privately owned land has one of two geologic characteristics - sink holes or shale formations - neither of which is suitable for a burial site.

So committee members and Mayor Albert "Ab" Smith worked their way through federal bureaucracy to convince the BLM to free up some land for the cemetery. "When you get land from BLM, you've got to stay in there like a bulldog and hang in there until you get it," said Smith.

Smith said residents have donated materials and will donate time to fence the area. "People here are willing to help, but they need a leader," he said.

Ironically, the establishment of a cemetery has been a high point of the town's recent troubled history, Johnston said. But she keeps it perspective.

"Do I think a cemetery is going to bring Wendover out of it? I don't think so," she said with a soft laugh.