Aspen Grove Cemetery a place of history, tranquility

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times
Jim Markalunas pauses to observe the gravesite of a child in the Aspen Grove Cemetery Friday.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Tucked away on a hillside in the east side of town, Aspen Grove Cemetery holds a lot of history.

Founded in 1889, this tranquil, sacred site is the final resting place for miners, children, leaders of Aspen’s cultural renaissance and other residents from the more than 120 years of Aspen’s history.

Board members Jim and Ramona Markalunas have managed the cemetery in recent decades (Ramona died in 2012). While that requires year-round dedication and love, Memorial Day is a special time when they recruit a group of young people to place flags on the graves of all the veterans lying in rest in Aspen Grove.

“I want them to know the significance of why we do both Memorial and Veterans Day,” Jim Markalunas said.

Since he knows where they all are, Markalunas helps the youngsters find all the markers scattered throughout the cemetery. Some have crossed skis for 10th Mountain Division members. Others denote military service from as far back as the Civil War.

“The history is written in stone,” Markalunas said.

Most of the time, the cemetery’s gate is locked, intended to preserve the serenity and natural beauty of the site. In the midst of Aspen’s continuous growth, “the cemetery is an island of tranquility in a sea of chaos,” Markalunas said.

But for Memorial Day weekend, the cemetery is open to visitors. The flags were placed on the graves Friday and will remain up for about a week.

“Aspen Grove has become the best cemetery I know about — by experience or by pictures,” said Stirling “Buzz” Cooper, whose son, Stirling Cooper Jr., is buried there. Cooper credits Markalunas, once his classmate when the two went through the Aspen school system.

“It is what a cemetery should be — a special collection of elements and graves in a beautiful natural setting,” Cooper said.


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