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Beyond the graves: A history of Wheaton Cemetery

WHEATON – In the midst of the often eerie Halloween season, the Wheaton Cemetery is known not for its spookiness, but for its tranquility.

“Some other cemeteries look like a sod farm – a grave marker down at the edge of the grass,” said Keith Carlson, who is the president of the Wheaton Cemetery Association Board of Directors. “More and more, cemeteries are sterile-looking. We have a more natural setting due to its age.”

Wheaton residents and members of surrounding communities have been buried at the cemetery, 1209 S. Warrenville Road, for more than a century. Large 150-year-old trees punctuate the grass between the gravestones.

Little-known influential Civil War militaryman, Capt. Marcellus Jones, is buried at the site. Jones is widely credited as the man who fired the first shot at the battle of Gettysburg – a piece of information that is noted on his headstone.

Sizable markers bearing the names “Wheaton” and “Gary” – of Indiana – abound, including the huge Gary Mausoleum, built to hold the remains of as many as 35 people.

Private First Class James Monroe, winner of the Medal of Honor and namesake of Monroe Middle School in Wheaton, is also interred at the cemetery.

Carlson said that he joined the board because of his own family’s presence in the cemetery. He said that most of the board is made up of similarly connected members of the community who feel the need to ensure such an important piece of Wheaton stays pristine.

The Wheaton Cemetery will likely be able to accomodate another 50 years of burials, Carlson said. It is the board’s job to ensure that it has the financial stability to remain well-kept long past then.

Aiding that effort is Sexton Bob Lentz, who oversees the day-to-day operations of the cemetery alongside his son Bobby and grandson Alex.

Lentz said while it is a family affair, especially considering that his mother was an office manager for a cemetery and his brother owns 13 cemeteries, he doesn’t do the work out of a sense of familial obligation.

“I like working with people,” he said. “We try to make it as painless as possible and help as much as you can to make the grieving process not worse because of their experience with us.”

The Wheaton Cemetery does not offer a supernatural setting for those looking for a fright this All Hallow’s Eve. Lentz said there aren’t any ghosts rumored to roam its grounds.

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