BELEN — Everyone deserves a final place to rest and be visited by their loved ones.
“After everything we do in this world, we deserve a permanent resting place,” said Robert Noblin, owner of Noblin Funeral Service and now Terrace Grove Cemetery.
On Tuesday, May 4, Noblin closed the deal on the nine-acre cemetery, four of which are still undeveloped. That didn’t last very long — work has already begun to the north of the current “new” part of the cemetery, with the addition of a columbarium, a structure for holding cremated remains in sealed niches.
Noblin said the original cemetery committee was formed and commissioned on Sept. 2, 1911, by members of the then German Lutheran Church.
“Members included the Reinkens, Beckers and Dalies. Really the founding fathers of Belen,” he said.
The cemetery, on the northeast corner of North Mesa Road and West Aragon Road in Belen, originally went all the way west to the Highline Ditch.
In 1967, the Terrace Grove Cemetery Association was formed, and sold the property west of North Mesa Road to Tommy Dils for what is now Dils Addition. Noblin said no one was buried on the property that was sold.
The old part of the cemetery on the west side of the current property is still privately owned by the families interred there, he said.
“There aren’t any publicly available plots in the old section. It is attached to our property, so we will do burials there for the few folks who still have an available plot,” Noblin said. “But we do not per se own it. We will clean up the old part twice a year as a courtesy.”
In addition to the nine acres for the cemetery, there’s an additional three acres to the east where long-term caretaker and grounds keeper Ronnie Rushing lives.
“He’s been here for 25 years and he’s still here,” Noblin said.
The cemetery was owned by Harold and Barbara Crump until 1982, when Connie and Dennis Strain purchased it, operating it until their retirement earlier this month.
“For me, historically, buying Terrace Grove brought back together the original German/Lutheran/Federated/Presbyterian cemetery to our building (on Main Street in Belen,)” Noblin said of the purchase.
The old church that houses the funeral business was built in 1911 and shortly after, the cemetery was commissioned by the church.
“Although, the first burial we have in the old section is a baby buried in 1879,” he said. “What we believe is that families like the Reinkens, the Beckers, the Dalies, owned large chunks of property there, but never officially commissioned it as a cemetery until 1911.”
The cemetery, which is nondenominational, is available to anyone for interment.
“We service any funeral home. This is not exclusive for our families, though it does provide an extension of services we can offer them,” Noblin said. “For many years, Terrace Grove has served families and we are continuing that.”
There is also a commercial crematory located at the cemetery, which will continue to be available for area funeral homes that don’t have their own facilities.
Several of the services Noblin plans to add to the cemetery are focused on giving a permanent resting place to those who have been cremated.
The columbarium will have sealed niches for urns, covered by engraved granite tiles. Around the structure will be benches and large decorative rocks, which will have hollow spaces in them for cremated remains.
Inside the columbarium is an ossuary, a large communal cavern, which will offer families another place for their loved ones remains without having to purchase an individual, private niche.
“The cremated remains are sealed in a velvet pouch — nothing is ever intermingled — and are placed in that center cavern. They cannot be retrieved. They’re there forever,” he said.
“We will put a memorial brick at the base of the columbarium. It’s another option that’s less expensive, and that’s sometimes important to consider.”
For those who don’t want to have cremated remains permanently interred, there will be a scattering area, Noblin said. The area with the columbarium and scattering area will be called Ellen’s Garden, named for Noblin’s mother who died last year.
“Pretty much everything in the area will be able to hold cremated remains,” he said. “We want to provide something different that Valencia County does not have. Right now, people have to go to Albuquerque for cremation options that are permanent.”
Noblin plans to dedicate certain areas of the cemetery to veterans, first responders, children and infants.
“We are also talking to groups of different faiths who might not have a dedicated section or a cemetery of their own,” he said.
For more information about interment options and services, contact Terrace Grove staff at 864-0823.
(Editor’s note: Robert Noblin announced Wednesday, May 12, he will be running for the office of mayor of Belen. The interview for this story was done last Thursday, May 6, without knowledge of his intention to declare. The News-Bulletin does not endorse candidates.)
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.