2009 Annual Report

Friends of Silverbrook Cemetery
2009 Annual Report 
Candace Skalla, President

The Friends of Silverbrook would like to thank the City of Niles, Niles District Library, Fort St. Joseph Museum, Bob Cooley (BCGS), and the many volunteers who have donated numerous hours of time, talent, and equipment to this effort.

“P.S. Just Bring Flowers” Project:

A special Thank-you to the Four Flags Garden Club and Master Gardener, John Misler, for the beautiful landscape of John Gipner’s family grave site at Silverbrook Cemetery.  It is a fitting tribute to the man who put Niles on the map and earned it the nickname of “The Garden City”.  A dedication is planned at the cemetery in June 2010.

The Annual Membership Drive and generous donations made it possible to purchase a 4 foot X6 foot entrance sign panel with the pre approved art work installed on a black wooden support post and post caps.  The sign panel displays the full size cemetery plot map with the photographs and cemetery history.  Working with the City of Niles, Kathy and Mike Knoll of Gitchell Signs, this signage was placed near the main entrance/ office area.

Highlights of 2009:

The Friends and Bob Cooley, Berrien County Genealogical Society, held 8 Saturday work sessions, with 40 volunteers attending, and 120 volunteer hours given.  Restoration or repairs were completed on 62 headstones.

The Friends of Silverbrook web site is maintained and updated by Bob Nightingale and Vickie Caison.  This past year, our website has had over 10,000 visitors.  At the end of 2009, 12,004 photographs of headstones and 20,108 Grave Search items were posted.  Currently, the “New Feature” of Grave Search linked to photographs has 3,520 to review, and 1,085 obituaries posted.

The “Silverbrook Legacies” series written by Kathy Hempel, published 21 featured stories in The Niles Daily Star, our local newspaper.

Guest Speakers at our monthly meetings:

  • Carol Bainbridge, Director, Fort St. Jospeh Museum “Early Berrien County Settlers: Where Did They Come From?  What Did They Do?”
  • Dave Roeder- The Brandywine History Club “Historic- Boston, MA”
  • Ann Flora, NDL, Local History-Genealogy Dept.  DVD Presentation on “National Geographic on Arlington Cemetery”. 


The Friends gave 5 presentations to:

  • Greater Niles Senior Center “Tell your Family Story”
  • Family Campers & RV “Cemetery Restoration and Preservation”
  • Niles Optimist Club “Silverbrook Legacies”
  • Buchanan-Michiana Regional History Days “Friends of Silverbrook”
  • Brandywine History Club “Intro to NDL Local History-Genealogy Room”


The Friends donated $100.00 to the City of Niles for purchase of Flags and Flag holders for veteran’s gravesites.

The Friends received a generous donation from Leslie Bookout, family and friends, from Mel’s estate sale. Small flags were also donated.

The Annual Membership Drive is held in April.  The Membership roster currently has 113 members listed.

Projects Funded in 2009:

  • New Signage at Cemetery Entrance.
  • Donations to Four Flags Garden Club for plants/supplies for the beautification of the Gipner family plot.
  • Donation to City of Niles for Veteran’s Flags and flag holders.
  • Purchase of cleaning and restoration supplies.
  • Printing Membership Letter Drive, Friend’s Brochures, Cemetery Maps and Walking Tour Maps.
  • Postage for mailings.


Thank you for your support in this endeavor.  We are looking forward to Spring 2010!



Candace Skalla