Bert Eldridge kneels in front of property adjacent to South Park Cemetery that will eventually become a veterans cemetery. Those wishing more information are welcome to contact Eldridge at 575-914-1250. Mark Wilson Photo
The city of Roswell gave the final go ahead, Thursday, for the development of a new veterans cemetery in the city, which will provide those who served in the U.S. military a final resting place closer to home. The cemetery will be located just north of South Park Cemetery, and will hold more than 2,000 plots, free for veterans and their spouses.
Vietnam veteran Bert Eldridge is the face behind the initiative to establish the cemetery. For more than a year, he has been working with city officials, members of the community and his longtime employer Ray Willis, of McBride Oil and Gas, to ensure the plans came to fruition. “I knew (Willis) had a plot of land down there by the cemetery. I asked him if (we) could buy it for the soldiers and he said, ‘No. I’ll give it to you’,” Eldridge told the Daily Record in May.
A local military cemetery has been long sought after, given the closest military cemetery is in Santa Fe National Cemetery. The four-hour drive and cost of gas are burdensome for family members who wish to visit their loved ones.
Eldridge estimated total costs of the new cemetery to be nearly $1 million. The majority of funding has come from donations from local businesses.
Smith Engineering is handling the design plans at no cost. “That’s a $30,000 job right there,” Eldridge said.
The construction crew is expected to break ground in three weeks. Once the necessary improvements to open the cemetery are made on the land, such as irrigation, roads and fencing, the city will be responsible for its ongoing maintenance.
Eldridge said the plan is to have a portion of the cemetery available for burials in six months.