Bluffdale • Families of veterans who want to scatter their ashes but still honor their memories with markers have a new option: the Utah Veterans Cemetery & Memorial Park in Bluffdale.
Just in time for Memorial Day, the cemetery has finished a $4.5 million project to expand and upgrade the cemetery, including a hillside landscaped in bark, trees and flowers, where cremated remains can be scattered.
Names of those whose ashes are spread there can be etched in panels on a nearby monument.
No one — except visiting deer that like to paw in the bark — had taken advantage of the scattering garden by early May, a month after it opened.
But a new columbarium was turning out to be popular, said Arnold Warner, grounds manager for the cemetery.
Within the first month, the columbarium had accepted the ashes of 15 veterans or their spouses. Each urn or pair of urns is placed in a niche of the upright structures in the columbarium.
Among the burials was Raymond Buckholz, a Korean War vet whose marker notes he was a “Master Prankster.”
“We were surprised how well they’ve taken off,” said Arnold Warner, grounds manager for the cemetery, which opened in 1990 and is operated by the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs. Utah is one of 11 states that have no national veterans cemetery.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provided the $4.5 million grant for improvements and suggested the columbarium and scattering garden, which have proven popular in other veteran cemeteries.
The grounds have grown increasingly popular for burials as suburban sprawl has brought residential neighborhoods closer, said Terry Schow, executive director of the Utah department.
“It’s also a sign of the times,” said Schow, noting that the VA pays the cost of burying a veteran while the family pays $700 for a spouse.
As of early May, 4,562 veterans and their spouses had been buried there, and the cemetery was experiencing at least one burial per day, Warner said.
Half of the burials now involve cremated remains, which can be placed in the ground or the columbarium or scattered to the wind in the scattering garden, which is common in the cemetery overlooking Point of the Mountain.
“The only time it stops is to change direction,” Warner joked.
Schow said the cemetery has set aside one area that will now allow upright, simple white markers like those at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington.
Such markers were allowed in the cemetery’s early years, but later discontinued.
The improvements also include a kiosk near the chapel and cemetery office where visitors can look up a grave’s location.
With the expansion, the cemetery should be able to accommodate all veterans who choose to be buried there, including Vietnam-era veterans, who will soon eclipse World War II veterans as the largest group dying each year. The state has an estimated 50,000 Vietnam-era vets.
“We’re good for 20 to 25 years,” Schow said.
Memorial Day at Veterans cemetery
The Memorial Day commemoration at the Utah Veterans Cemetery and Memorial Park will include dedication of a plaque honoring Utah members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Those Japanese-American soldiers served with distinction in World War II even as many of their families were forced to live in inland internment camps.
The event begins at 10 a.m. May 27 at the cemetery, 17111 Camp Williams Road, Bluffdale.
The cemetery will be rededicated at 11:15 a.m. and a Special Forces monument will be dedicated at noon.