Cemetery Update Services

Ingenuity Becomes the Seed of Dreams

OPINION Column

PARK RAPIDS ENTERPRISE   WED., OCT. 16, 1999

What happened to the good old American Dream where an idea can become the seed of entrepreneurship and sprout a satisfying, productive lifestyle?

Ask Deborah Wiczek. The dream isn’t dead, even though her “clients” are.

About 10 years ago Wiczek was trying to keep busy at her Winona home using her computer and expertise in drafting blueprints, house designs and landscaping plans. A friend who was researching family history asked her to help locate an old gravesite at a Winona cemetery.

Finding the grave was a monumental effort, so to speak. Records were maintained on “crummy little maps,” filed in no apparent logical order. The sexton told her his maps were falling apart and she offered to help straighten out the mess.

From that bit of serendipity an enterprise was born. Operating with help from her husband, Wiczek’s “Cemetery Updating Services” has mapped and recorded cemetery gravesites in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, California, Utah, Florida, Vermont, Illinois, Tennessee, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, New Hampshire, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Texas and Idaho.

She charges per gravesite, whether empty or full, and when a cemetery board accepts her proposal she sifts through all existing records, turns them into an easy to use database, sorted alphabetically, chronologically or what ever order is desired. (Probably a list of all Norwegians could be accessed.)  

Maps are drafted and everything is compiled in a book. She also puts the records and maps on a compact disc for off-premises safekeeping.

A second phase of the process is actually walking the grounds, taking measurements, checking gravestones and cross-checking names. Since the data is easy to enter, some cemetery managers do this phase themselves.

The final effort involves plowing through the minutiae of old records, checking for spelling, accuracy of records and depending on the desires of the cemetery board, adding biographical data such as nationality, military service history, marital status, church membership, etc.

Any where there are people there is a cemetery,” says Wiczek. “and messy records are a chronic problem.”

The problem, she says, is over the past 150 years typically 10 to 30 people have kept records for any given cemetery. And their attention to detail and record-keeping techniques vary widely. So, often only one or two people can provide necessary information.

“It’s eye-crossing work, but it’s not rocket science,” Wiczek says. “You just need an eye for detail and an ability to work with dates and data.”

But when it’s complete, the information is accessible to everyone and adding data becomes a simple task.

Some potential customers reach Wiczek through word of mouth or references from satisfied clients. But, like many small businesses, solicitation and knock-on-the-door salesmanship works best.

One doesn’t need the inventive genius of a Thomas Edison to turn an idea into the bright light of enterprise. It still has to do with recognizing the niche then carving it with dedication, ingenuity and work.

A few years ago when the Internet burgeoned so fast it jumped magnitudes past common understanding, some guy made a bunch of money with a book, “Internet for Dummies.” Now there are “Dummies” and “Idiot” books for everything.

Maybe there’s one called “Cemeteries for Dummies.” But don’t buy it. It’s much easier to call Wiczek.  She can be contacted at (507) 453-0811 or at her website at www.cemeteryrecordservices.com.

Or she might be on a search for her dream adventure: updating a really old cemetery in Scotland or Australia.


Please spend the time and check out our services.

You will be happy that you did.

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