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Article updated: 11/15/2012 9:20 AM

Widow to donate Owen Co. land for green cemetery

By

SPENCER, Ind. -- Betty Blaker does not intend to die anytime soon. But when her life on Earth ends, she will be buried on her home place beside her husband Milo, amid the graves of dogs the couple took in over half a century.

And they will someday be joined by others. Betty Blaker is donating the couple's 38 acres to Owen County to use as a green burial cemetery, where people can purchase a small plot of ground as an eternal resting place. As her husband was a year ago, the deceased can be laid to rest directly into a grave or inside a simple wooden box to decompose naturally.

No embalming, no vault liners, no ornate metal caskets built to withstand nature's elements.

"I'm going to give out land to the county, and make it clear they can't use it for anything but a green burial ground," Blaker told The Herald Times (http://bit.ly/QaCe2I ) after presenting her plan to the Owen County commissioners. "We've got so many animals buried out there, it's already a cemetery, anyway."

Blaker Cemetery, consisting now of just two plots, was established in July 2011 when the commissioners agreed to Betty Blaker's request to take over a 20-by-22-foot parcel of land for a cemetery so she could keep her promise to her longtime husband. The day before the 88-year-old man died in March 2010, he told her he wanted to be buried on their land, "up there on that hill by you."

She said it would be done. Ed Tilford dug a grave.

After Milo Blaker's last breath, his wife called the undertaker and learned she couldn't bury her husband in the yard. It was against the law, and if she did so, she might be charged with a crime.

So Milo Blaker's body, unembalmed and in a cloth-lined cherry casket his friends built, got buried -- temporarily -- in nearby Rose Cemetery.

Once the commissioners agreed to his wife's small land donation, she and friends dug him up and transported him home in the back of his pickup truck, Betty Blaker at the wheel. His reburial ceremony was a year ago.

Weeks later, Betty Blaker kneeled down and planted dozens of daffodil bulbs in the winter dirt. They bloomed for a month this spring, she said, like a blanket of sunshine.

Owen County Attorney Richard Lorenz is looking into the legalities of the cemetery donation and said it's likely the county will accept the gift of the land on Rocky Hill Road for the area's first green cemetery.

"They've already got an easement, and there's nothing for them to mow since it's a natural area," Blaker said. "And we've got two great big pine trees there, and that's about all you need for a nice cemetery."

She hopes to have the arrangements made by the end of the year. "All I wanted to do," the 84-year-old widow said, "was get my husband buried at home."

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