2012 Annual Report

Friends of Silverbrook Cemetery

2012 Annual Report


Members of the Friends of Silverbrook Cemetery were active in 2012, promoting improvements and involvement in our City Cemetery.

The Friends and Bob Cooley (Berrien County Genealogical Society) held two work sessions with five volunteers, giving twenty hours and completing fifteen headstone repairs during the summer months of 2012.

The Friendsofsilverbrook.org website is maintained and improved upon by web designer, Bob Nightingale, with help from editors Mary Ellen Drolet, Vicki Caison, and Debby Barkman.  From June 2011 to July 2012, the website had over 130,000 visits for over 1.9 million hits.  We now have 4,326 obituaries with 1,493 added in 2012.  Of our 20,699 searches of grave listings online, 10,751 are linked to photographs, and 4,220 are linked to obituaries. Last February, Bob upgraded the photo gallery from Gallery 2 to Google Picasa Web, which allows us to have unlimited growth! S o far we have used only 360MB of our 5GB free space.

Bob Nightingale published two soft bound volumes of A-K and L-Z Index listings of burial-interments at Silverbrook Cemetery.  The new grave marker of Hiram Chilson is featured on the front covers, and they are available for purchase on Amazon.com, linked on our website.

In 2011, the Friends filed an application with the US Department of Veteran's Affair for a military grave marker for the previously unmarked grave of Hiram Chilson (1796-1889), one of the earliest settlers of Niles, who was a veteran of the War of 1812.  The headstone was received in April 2012 and was installed by cemetery superintendent Neal Mikel.  The Rebecca Dewey Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) sponsored a program and ceremony in May to dedicate the new marker.  Dee Beaumont, Regent, and Mary Ellen Drolet led the program, with family member Debby Barkman sharing Hiram's family history.

Martin's Super Market and Pepsico provided us with a $500.00 grant to be used to honor veterans, and we purchased a set of six service flags, two Medal of Honor flags and fifteen flag holders with their donation. We are grateful for their yearly support.

Thank you, also, to Dick Kujawa and Custom Fence of Niles for designing, manufacturing, and installing new gates at the Silverbrook Avenue entrance in May.

We cherish the donation of the two Norwood Maple trees, which were planted in front of the Silverbrook Abbey, in loving memory of Friends member Fred Cramer, by his wife Sue, and the Cramer family.

The Friends submitted four "Silverbrook Legacy" articles written by Kathie Hempel in the Niles Daily Star. Kathie spoke at our annual open house meeting, along with Katie Rohman of Leader Publications.  Also providing monthly meeting presentations were Laura Holister of the Niles District Library on the Tree Climbing Genealogy Group, and Debby Barkman on the Horace Cummings-Henderson family history. Victor Gutchenritter led a tour of St. Joseph Catholic Mission Cemetery, Bertrand, and detailed current restorations efforts there.

The Friends participated in various community programs:

  • The Niles District Library History Day event concluded with a second annual Civil War tour at the cemetery, complete with reenactors marching from the library to the cemetery in May.
  • The Friends hosted a tour of City Hall Chapin Mansion for the "If You Grew Up in Southwest Michigan" Facebook group.
  • Friends member Bob Nightingale was a guest speaker at the Niles District Library on the topic of his book, Camp Letters.
  • Silverbrook was also represented at the Four Flags Players production of "Our Town" and at the Lake Michigan College Niles History Day by members of our group.

The Annual Membership Drive is held in April of each year.  The membership Roster currently has 168 members.

Membership Projects Funded in 2012:

  • Purchase of 2 American Flags for the cemetery.
  • Purchase of 2 new powder coat 10 foot chain link fencing gates.
  • Purchase of 13 gallons of black high gloss paint for ongoing fence maintenance and paint supplies.
  • Purchase of outdoor faucet repair kits for the water lines in the Bond and Garden of Memory sections.
  • Purchase of landscape plants and mulch for cemetery grounds.
  • Signage for veteran and tree project.
  • Purchase of cemetery marker cleaning supplies.
  • Purchase of twenty-five 48-inch Ultaflect driveway marker rods.
  • Printing of membership letters, thank you notes, large cemetery maps, and postage.
  • The annual fee for the website and post office box.

Thank you for your continued support in this endeavor.

Respectfully Submitted,
Candace Skalla, President