Oklahoma's Fort Gibson National Cemetery adds 6,000 burial sites

By CATHY SPAULDING | Muskogee Phoenix, Okla. | Published: January 23, 2021

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (Tribune News Service) — Fort Gibson National Cemetery is adding 6,000 burial sites into six more acres, cemetery director Bill Rhoades said.

The additions, on the southwest corner of the cemetery, include 3,000 pre-placed crypts and 3,000 sites for cremation urns, he said.

He said the additional sites "should take us to the mid 2030s — 2036 to 2037" to fill.

The additional sites could be finished by summer. However, Rhoades said he doesn't expect to start using them until 2022.

The project also includes road improvements. General contractor is RKE Contractors out of Dexter, Missouri.

Fort Gibson National Cemetery expanded from 32 to 48 acres in 2008. The 2008 expansion featured a couple thousand more grave sites and a columbarium.

"Cemeteries, especially national cemeteries, are constantly expanding to be able to continue to serve veterans and their families," Rhoades said. "The expansion we did in 2008 was turned over to the cemetery in 2010. We're projected to have those areas buried out by sometime next year."

The columbarium, also turned over to the cemetery in 2010, is a little more than half full, he said.

"That should be good until probably the late 2020s," he said.

When the cemetery expanded in 2008, it had the six acres in the southwest corner as well, he said.

"We've had it for decades," he said.

Rhoades said officials continuously look at the cemetery's usage rate.

"Every month, we look at our current usage rates and our projections as to when we're going to run out of space," he said. "We're looking at picking up more property in the area so we can continue to provide services."

Cemetery officials are negotiating on property across a street from and north of the cemetery, he said. If the cemetery adds that property, it could expand usage into the 2060s, he said.

Rhoades said the national cemetery did 768 interments in 2020.

"Right at three a day, average," he said, adding that burials usually are not done on weekends.

"Lately, the pace has been hectic," he said. "I don't know whether it's because of COVID or it's been an unusual year. We've been doing right at 70 a month."

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