We all know about Woodlawn…about a tornado that within a minute ripped century-old trees from the ground, twisted them and flung them like ragdolls smashing into the monuments of our family members. We know about the tornado that undermined the winding roadways and paths, left craters in the earth and for as long as we will know, changed the landscape of our beautiful, historic 19th century park cemetery. We know what happened. The question now is, what should we…what can we do about it?

Here are some things to know about Woodlawn. It is not a city or county-owned cemetery. It is its own non-profit organization. It gets no government funding, nor is it sustained by any foundation or granting organization. Beyond a rare and occasional donation, Woodlawn is financed solely by the goods and services it provides…by the gravesites it sells (fewer now, with the popularity of cremations), by opening and closing of graves, by fees for tending flower pots. In the 19th and early 20th century, that was enough, but no longer. Costs have increased, but revenues have not kept up. In spite of lots of cost-saving measures have been instituted in recent years that are slowly improving its financial situation, Woodlawn does not have a big pot of money available to pay the massive cost of this disaster…a cost not expected to be significantly covered by insurance.

Woodlawn Cemetery is one of the most important and beautiful historic places in Winona. Founded in 1862, more than 22,000 of our citizens, and many of our most notable, are buried at Woodlawn. This is our legacy; our history.

What should we, as proud Winona citizens do? We should help, that’s what. Woodlawn says it needs $150,000, at least, to help it pay for the costs of this disaster. If we all do what we can, we can cover this cost. And we should. Please donate to the Woodlawn Cemetery Tornado Relief Fund and be as generous as you can. Send your contribution to: Woodlawn Cemetery, 506 West Lake Blvd, Winona, MN. 55987. And thank you!

Margaret Shaw Johnson