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News covering policy and issues related to city and county governments in the Ozarks.

Hazelwood Cemetery’s Sesquicentennial Celebration Highlights Community Visioning Project

Hazelwood Cemetery
Claire Kidwell

Springfield officials hope to upgrade one of the state’s largest municipally-operated cemeteries.  Hazelwood Cemetery turned 150 years old this month. It serves as the final resting place of many notable citizens; including Springfield founder John Polk Campbell and Route 66 visionary John T. Woodruff.

Officials gathered Saturday at the site to commemorate its sesquicentennial.

Pete Williams, the head of the Visioning Committee, said that people will be seeing some “good changes” in the future.

“These are visions that have been brought forth between the visioning committee and the architectural students from Drury University. We hope that they all can pass – time will tell,” said Williams.

These changes include a new cemetery entrance, memorial, a fence around the entire property, a place for cremated remains, and a celebration of life center for indoor services, among other plans.

The committee is made up of community leaders, students and faculty from Drury University’s Hammons School for Architecture, and officials with Springfield Public Works, which maintains the site.

In attendance Saturday was also Mary Jarvis, who lived on the cemetery’s grounds as a child in the 1950s when her father managed the property. Jarvis says that while she has seen some negative changes to Hazelwood over the years, such as fewer trees, she supports the current proposal.

Jarvis said, “I think it would be very nice – a very big improvement!”

The plans will go before Springfield City Council in the coming weeks.

Springfield Mayor Ken McClure said, “I believe that the history of any community is outlined in its cemetery’s because the people that are buried there are the ones that made our community what it is.”

McClure presented a proclamation Saturday declaring October 14th as Hazelwood Cemetery Day. A monument will also be installed to commemorate the sesquicentennial anniversary later this month.

Tony Robinson with the Springfield NAACP chapter noted at Saturday’s event that “The desegregation of Hazelwood Cemetery helped welcome a future in our city, a future of unity and equality.”

According to the city, the land for Hazelwood Cemetery was purchased in 1867. Located at 1642 E. Seminole, it was originally 80 acres; with 18 acres sold to National Cemetery Association and two acres sold to Temple of Israel for a Jewish Cemetery, northwest of Hazelwood. Today, at 60 acres, it has over 44,000 grave spaces and is still actively selling grave spaces.