Clark Lake’s Memory

A visit to the cemetery on Hyde Road connects you to Clark Lake’s Memory.  You first notice familiar names like Vermeulen, Adkins, Jackson, Anderson, and Reed.  Look further and you find reminders of the area’s earliest settlers.  George Stranahan, his son George Jr., and daughter Catherine, are buried here.  Veterans from the Civil War to the current era can be found.  One veteran is chosen to be honored when the Memorial Day parade pauses at the cemetery, prayers are said, and taps played.  Also among the many headstones are names of those now forgotten.  One common thread of all may be that each, and/or their families, rest at the lake they loved.  All of it is part of Clark Lake’s history and heritage.

Strolling through the cemetery evokes a range of emotions – sweet remembrances, lingering grief, respect, sadness, and even a touch of humor (see last line that many at the lake have uttered).

Some headstones have stood the test time.  Many have not . Markers are tipped over, the stone or granite is encased with moss, dirt or otherwise discolored.  That, in itself, is sad.  Watch this slide show to take the unhappy tour.

The Clark Lake Cemetery is one of four under the authority, of Columbia Charter Township.  Recently, the Township appropriated about $60,000, indirectly offset by COVID era revenues, to eliminate brush and to replace the disheveled fencing around the south, west, and north perimeters.  Though the Township indicates it routinely budgets for the maintenance of the cemeteries, it is legally prohibited from using tax dollars to repair or maintain individual grave markers or headstones.   While the Township bears final responsibility, others have helped in the past.  The recently installed fencing matches what the Clark Lake Spirit Foundation erected 19 years ago.

What brought about the Foundation’s involvement is worth repeating.  At the front entrance, cars routinely parked over graves when using the boat launch.  The Foundation constructed the fencing and pillars that you see along the east perimeter.   This project, in collaboration with the then township supervisor, was no small task.   It started with the Foundation mapping the cemetery, a map the Township still uses today.  (Scroll down to see an excerpt from a previous story about the Foundation’s work 19 years ago).

Should Clark Lake care?  Should those who neither have loved ones in the Clark Lake cemetery nor expect to use it themselves be concerned?  The cemetery is located at the Head of the Lake, near the original Village of Clark Lake.   It is evidence of Clark Lake’s Memory and speaks volumes about the community.  The disgrace of helter-skelter markers and defaced headstones telegraph a message, and it’s not a good one.  Recognizing the legal restrictions that prevent Township action, turning this story around at Clark Lake will require community support.  So many successful projects are witness to standing up for Clark Lake – the Spirit Trail, the restored and renovated Community Center, the Welcome to Clark Lake Sign, Dam Strong, Garden Angels at the County Park and Community Center, and events like the Memorial Day Parade, Polar Plunge, Clark Lake Cup, Crab Races, Run Clark Lake and Raft-O-Rama.

The Clark Lake Spirit Foundation invites you to support the Clark Lake Memory Fund.  Jackson Monument will clean the headstones and restore the out-of-place markers to their proper location.  The cost estimate is $7,000.  Can you help?  Donate through this website link, choosing “Clark Lake Cemetery” or mail a check to the order of Lake Spirit Foundation with “cemetery” in the memo line.  The address is Clark Lake Spirit Foundation, PO Box 224, Clark Lake, MI 49234.

Donors will be gratefully recognized on a Clark Lake Memory Marker in the cemetery and become part of Clark Lake’s history.  An initial donation of $500 has covered 7% of the needed funds.


Rick Belcher

Mike McKay

On a rainy Thursday in March, this shivering crew met at the cemetery to assess needs and devise a plan.

Mike McKay (who led the Foundation’s cemetery restoration 19 years ago), John Karkheck (who inspired the project), Scott Hunt (contractor), Chris St. John (Jackson Monument).  Not pictured, Rick Belcher.

Once completed, John Karkheck indicates Post 315 of the American Legion in Brooklyn will dedicate the work done on behalf of interred veterans.  Further, it’s hoped that the Wreaths Across America program, honoring veterans, will include this cemetery.

Jackson Monument outlined the process below:

Step 1: Restore, level and plumb broken marble tablets, using Domo 10 epoxy and infill mortar as recommended by National Cemetery Preservation best practice. Repair or new socket type base may be necessary to ensure they stand upright.  (One tablet is beyond repair – the marble is too degraded and it will have to lay on the ground).

Step 2: Straighten and level each family lot of markers. Remove built up soil from around each marker or monument. Search out each existing concrete foundation, level if necessary and re-install the marker to the foundation. Straighten each row of markers for the best curb appeal.

Step 3: Clean each memorial.  Each stone will be washed using low pressure power washer. Next, a product called D-2 biological growth cleaner would be applied. This would be followed with a gentle scrub by hand and rinsed with clean water. The concentration of the hand scrub would be the surface where the names and dates are. The rough sides will receive the power wash treatment.

Below is an excerpt from a previous story about the Foundation’s involvement in improving the cemetery:

“…a major improvement was initiated by the Clark Lake Spirit Foundation (then called the Clark Lake Foundation).  At the time, the fence and pillars facing Hyde Road were not there.  Those accessing the boat launch across the street would park their cars and trailers well into the cemetery and atop some of the graves.   Recognizing the desecration, the Foundation’s president, Mike McKay, contacted then Township Supervisor Dan Burich.  They discussed the possibilities.  Mike had the cemetery surveyed, and found the boundaries were rightfully 20 feet to the east, where cars and trailers would park.  What took place next was a collaborative effort involving Dan Burich and the Foundation directors–Mike McKay, Brian Adamzcyk, Michele Ambs, Peggy Collins, John Kudner, Linda Reynolds, Joe Thorrez, Mick Thorrez, and Nate Vermeulen.  A plan was conceived to install the fencing and pillars.   As with some other Clark Lake projects, both the energy and financing for the project came from residents through the Foundation.