Thursday, March 17, 2011
At the age of 16 Matthew Prythero has bigger sights than the latest video games or trends…his active mind is set on much more meaningful things. His maturity shows through his boyish grin when he talks about the rescue he initiated of the Ralston Valley Cemetery in Arvada. He became involved in 2008.
Matthew’s curious spirit took him to the graveyard to explore. But what he found led his open heart to take action. Gravestones in pieces must have been similar to what his heart felt. Some even beyond repair, but this didn’t stop Matthew from placing pieces of others back together. Such as the gravestone of James Brinkerhuff, whose headstone reads “ a loving husband, a father dear. A faithful friend lies buried here.” Buried yes, forgotten no, thanks to someone like Matthew Prythero.
The first buried here were triplets in 1869. Later, the nearly 3 acres became a community burial ground. There was also a post office, blacksmith, school and a stage stop on the land, forming this into a community.
Vandals took to the land, and some recklessly drove a 4 wheeler through it, destroying headstones and parts of the cemetery. There are more than 40 missing markers, 10 that are broken and one that is beyond repair.
This brings out one of Matthew’s biggest hopes, and that’s that vandals return the items they have stolen, including the headstones and footstones. And also that the cemetery can be preserved, and it’s history restored. Along with hopes, come fears.
And for Matthew that is that the cemetery may disappear into history because of a vandal. “Even though it is being watched by after CPI (Colorado Preservation Inc.) The City of Arvada, and the Arvada Historical Society and myself, there is no way to stop a vandal going into the cemetery in the middle of the night…” says Matthew.
But his care is a stamp on the cemetery. He was named preservationist caretaker in 2009. He is the perfect man for the job! He brought in ground-penetrating radar for the cemetery. It usually costs nearly $1,000 dollars, but with some fundraising, some of his own cash, and with equipment for Denver University, Matthew got the land surveyed for 200 dollars. Survey this kids heart, and you will surely find you have struck gold.