Columbariums available at city cemetery

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Two columbariums, located directly across from the cemetery's utility shed, contain 24 columns with each column holding two urns of a specific size. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

A columbarium is a structure for the respectful storage of cremated remains of the deceased in funerary urns. They can be free standing units, or part of a mausoleum or other building. 

Guttenberg City Cemetery adds columbariums 

An increase in cremation and a lack of burial space prompted the Guttenberg City Cemetery Board, comprised of Chairman Pat Kuempel, Vice Chair Ed Rodenberg, Steve Bahls, Larry Borcherding, Carla Ruegnitz, Janice Andregg, Marie Torrey, Sexton Paul Kregel and Advisor Bill Allyn to purchase two columbariums for urn placement. 

Paul Kregel has been involved with the city cemetery since he was 15 years old, and the cemetery's sexton beginning in 2012. His father, the late Loren Kregel, was the sexton for 30 years. "We are running out of land and half of our burials each year are cremations," noted Kregel. "It has been increasing for about the past five years." 

The two large columbariums, located directly across from the cemetery's utility shed, contain 24 columns per unit, with each column holding two urns of a specific size.

"We have room to expand our columbariums as the need arises," commented Kregel. 

Cemetery records

From 2012-2013, Jessica Klein, a former Clayton Ridge High School student, logged over 200 volunteer hours toward her Girl Scout Silver Cord Award, creating a spreadsheet of each grave site, deceased information, and military affiliation at the Guttenberg City Cemetery; St. Paul's Cemetery located on Jolly Ridge Road, and St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery in Garnavillo. Klein turned over her detailed findings to city staff who created a database for public research. "We are so grateful for Jessica's extensive contribution. Her hard work has paved the way for continued, accurate record keeping, which I keep updated as needed," said Kregel. 

History of cremation

Most people view traditional burials as the more common and most historical disposition method, but cremation actually has a far more ancient history. 

Archeologists have discovered pottery shards and urns that indicate cremation began spreading across northern Europe during the Bronze Age – 2500 to 1000 B.C. It wasn’t until around 800 B.C. that cremation became the most common type of disposal. The exact reason is unknown, but many historians believe that cremations became more prevalent due to diseases and the growing number of war deaths. 

By 395 A.D., during the peak of the Roman Empire, cremation practices were widely used, and ashes were stored in decorative urns similar to what is used today. 

Early Christians disapproved of cremation because of Bible teachings and Jewish practices. When Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, made Christianity the official Roman religion in 400 A.D., traditional burial came to the forefront of the Christian world, all but replacing cremation. 

Modern Cremation in the United States

In 1876, Dr. Julius LeMoyne, a practicing physician, founder of Washington’s Citizens Library, co-founder of the Washington Female Seminary, and ardent supporter of abolition, became interested in studying the spread of disease. During his research he noted that residents in his community repeatedly became sick with the same or similar symptoms, many of them dying from these illnesses. 

Dr. LeMoyne became convinced that the illnesses were directly linked to the burial practices used at that time. He believed illness was spread through contaminated drinking water caused by waste materials created by buried and decomposing bodies. He felt there must be a better way to dispose of human remains, and latched on to the idea of cremation. Due to a lack of crematories in the United States he sought information from overseas and corresponded with doctors and scientists in Europe. 

In 1876, Dr. LeMoyne built the first modern American cremation chamber in Pennsylvania. Crematories soon began popping up all across the United States, and by 1900 there were 20 in operation.

In 1913, Dr. Hugo Erichsen started the Cremation Association of North America (CANA), spreading the word about an ancient way of safely and hygienically disposing of bodies. Cremation continued to be popular until the 1920's when it was scientifically proven that properly done whole-body burials were just as safe as cremations for the public’s health.

Following that discovery, the CANA switched gears and began promoting cremation as a memorializing choice. Cremation popularity is back on the rise as growing costs associated with traditional funerals, environmental concerns, creativity, lack of space and a shift in religious beliefs have taken place. 

For pricing and availability contact Paul Kregel at 563-880-4855, or Cemetery records can be found at

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