Caring for lost souls: couple soon to complete Medina Cemetery restoration
by Katelynn Schultz, photos by Clarke Davis
Four weed eaters, 40 chain saw chains, five chain saw bars, and 11 months ago Pat and Vicki Langton started a journey packed with clarity and truckloads of hard work.
It was last April when the couple began the task of clearing and cleaning the long forgotten Medina Cemetery near Perry. The job is almost done.
Perseverance is one of the many words that would describe the Langtons, Perry-Lecompton classmates who have stuck together for over 40 years and built a unique hobby together—chain saw carving.
This is the third attempt to clean up the cemetery in the last 50 years. Other attempts at clearing the two-acre jungle of overgrown brush and weeds fell short. The couple is not only clearing away brush, unnecessary trees and wrist-sized grape vines, but they are also probing the ground for headstones, using metal detectors to locate coffin nails, recording newly discovered graves, and researching the graves already known.
The first burial was in 1861 before Medina Cemetery was established in 1869 on Kiowa Road near the town of Medina. It has been the burial site of 23 people since then. The latest burial was in 1905. After 1905 the cemetery’s upkeep did nothing but go down. The Langtons decided to do something about that.
This cemetery is close to the Langtons’ hearts. Standing in the cemetery, Pat can look to the northeast and see the place where he spent his early childhood. To the west is the site of the long-gone town of Medina where the couple lives. Vicki’s hometown is Lecompton, just south across the Kansas River. Medina is the place the couple raised their two sons.
When finished with the cemetery they hope to have a driveway, mulched paths, new grass, a pretty fence, and a plaque in the front with the names of every person laid to rest in the cemetery.
Along with the hard work, sweat and money the couple has put into restoring the abandoned cemetery, they will add their special touch as chain saw carvers. Already one can see several signs of that with small tree stumps turned into crosses and one mushroom.
Vicki was the first of the pair to start carving about 18 years ago. It happened when a vacation gone wrong went right. It was the first day out when Vicki found a three-foot bear a man had carved and she wanted it. The price tag was $295 and the carver wouldn’t dicker.
He told Vicki she wouldn’t ask him to lower the price if she knew how much work it was. She was soon to learn.
The vacation ended that quickly. She told Pat they were headed home and on the way she bought an $88 chain saw.
Not only was one chain saw carver born, but a month later Pat decided to try his hand at it.
Vicki and Pat have been working together with their small hobby business, Rustic Creations, and their work can be found in numerous places including the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, the Topeka zoo, and others as far away as Texas and Pennsylvania. They have done a lot of carvings for charity, the latest going to auction at Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center for the neonatal care unit.
The two plan on carving multiple items for the cemetery, a place they plan to someday call home. The couple plan to be buried in the Medina Cemetery “even if we have to dig the holes ourselves,” Pat said.
Vicki will be carving a 10-foot tall angel to hold the corner of the fence at Medina, the angel will be dedicated to her mother and grandparents. Vicki and Pat will also be carving different objects for the graves without a tombstone and new concrete tombstones will be made as well.
A new sign that will read something like “Medina Cemetery” will be carved as well to be put in the entryway. Benches will be placed around the grounds.
The idea is to have a quiet, peaceful place to come and reflect on the history of the area and those who settled here and those who only had a brief stay. They might even commune with the Civil War soldiers who lie buried here, Pat said.
Vicki and Pat aren’t only doing this because it means so much to them, they are doing it becase “Nobody deserves to be forgotten,” as Vicki stated best. All the people buried in the town cemetery deserve to be remembered. Of the six babies buried in Medina, some of their parents are no where to be found, unless one were to look in the Rose Hill Cemetery.
Some of the bodies originally buried in the Medina Cemetery are now just down the road in the Rose Hill Cemetery, like the parents of the babies. The bodies were moved by the families because they could be visited at the clean and clear Rose Hill establishment. Hopefully Medina will be just as well kept if not cleaner by the end of the year.
Pat works overtime at Goodyear, a place he’s been employed for 27 years, to pay for everything needed to finish the job. It probably leaves him wishing that he was a multimillionaire, but if he was he wouldn’t use the money on the cemetery but to rebuild the old Catholic church that once stood not far from the cemetery.
Aside from money the Langtons have paid in the form of a seizure from heat exposure, high allergic reactions to the poison ivy, and allergies caused by the very trees that they carve, but just like Pat says “Just keep laughing,” and all of the bad won’t matter.
One strict rule the duo has is to leave everything that has been found on the grounds there. It is also true that a piece of them will be left there as well. One symbol of Pat and Vicki will be the Wood Spirit carving and Celtic Cross. A Wood Spirit shows anyone passing through or who stays on the grounds that they will be protected and that they are being watched over.
The Langtons expressed appreciation for Doug Porter, the grader man who has maintained Kiowa Road, which is mostly dirt, and the surrounding farmers for being so nice to them. They have also been supported by Bruce Dorland, Bernie Schmidtline and the Leavenworth-Jefferson Electric Cooperative linemen. Also Linda Weckwerth—sort of an adopted sister—who, they say, is always there for them.
Many things can be learned from the Langtons. How to persevere is one of the most important ones, but to never lose hope is another.
Vicki states it best yet again by saying, “You can’t give up on these people—everybody needs a good place to rest.” Thanks to Pat and Vicki, they will.
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