In 1861, Pyror and Katie Miller donated land for a cemetery to the Pine-Strawberry Community. In the last 170 years, many pioneers and local residents have been buried there, but in recent years, the property has not been regularly maintained.

An all-volunteer group oversees its operation, an informal committee of six residents, including pioneer family descendant Albert Hunt. Thanks to the initiative of Karen van der Werf, a cleanup and beautification project has been started that will run semi annually.

Things kicked off this past Saturday when van der Werf was happily surprised to see more than 40 people join forces to rake debris and pick up trash.

A member of the LDS church, van der Werf’s daughter is buried in a pioneer cemetery in southern Arizona. Every time she visits her daughter’s grave, she notes how well maintained the site is. Being a Pine resident, it is a challenge to visit her gravesite often, so she visits the Pine Cemetery to reflect.

Seeing the state of the P-S cemetery, she decided they could do better.

Putting out flyers, posting on social media and having local real estate company Coldwell Banker post the event on their marquee, did the job. Volunteers just showed up to lend a hand and the group hauled more than 4,000 pounds of debris to the dump.

Donated snacks including cookies, oranges, water and ice were on hand for the volunteers.

“I like to do things to help the community,” van der Werf said on Saturday as she oversaw the sign-in, handing out black garbage bags and thanking every person.

Michelle Kaske and her family saw it on the realtor’s sign and showed up to help. The group owns a second home in Pine and like to hike the area.

Barbie Miller, another pioneer family descendant, was there to help as well.

“I’m here to show respect, to remember the stories,” Miller said. Her father, husband and daughter are buried here. “My heart is here with them,” she added with tears brimming.

“I’m looking for respect for the deceased,” said van der Werf.

Respect is the word so many repeated Saturday Respect for those for whom this is a last resting place, respect for their stories, respect for the families who come to visit and respect for the community this cemetery serves.

Those buried here are pioneers, decedents of pioneers, property owners or a resident of 10 plus years, said Hunt.

Thank you to all who helped; it’s another community event that brings pride to our little community.

Future tasks will include straightening or adding borders so graves are defined, marking walkways, and keeping the flotsam of the forest from becoming too thick. van der Werf plans the next cleanup day to be in September. Everyone is welcome to help.

Fire Art to help fuel reductionFire art is being used to support the Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction Committee, the non-profit group working to reduce fire risk in Pine-Strawberry. Brought to us by the PIEbar in Strawberry, this first-time event is happening tomorrow.

“Experience flaming art, art for sale, vendors, music, art cars, fire sculptures and fire performers,” says the website

Tickets are $25 for the Saturday, May 1 event. It will be at the PIEbar on Highway 87 in Strawberry from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. with the fire show starting at sundown.

Proceeds will go to the committee.

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