Honoring a life of service: Cemetery board donates tree in honor of president

Louis Abraham took his job as Riverview Cemetery board president seriously, and with his signature servant’s heart.

Often times, he could be found in his office at W.J. Abraham & Sons Inc. General Contractors at night, working on the cemetery’s business.

Throughout the week, he’d drive through the cemetery’s winding paths to make sure it met the standards the board and employees set. He’d always stop by to talk with Frank Cottey — the cemetery’s operations manager — to make sure everything was going smoothly and to chat.

“He wanted to make sure we cared and make sure the people here were happy at the end of the day,” Cottey said. “The cemetery is with these people forever because it’s the continuance of care and support for those families. He cared about that.”

Abraham passed away on Jan. 13 at the age of 74, leaving behind a legacy of service, friendship and love for this community.

So the board donated an American beech tree in Abraham’s memory as part of its tree memorial program. On Monday, with his wife, Marsha, and daughter Lisa Kloeker and her husband, Doug, gathered as the tree was planted along a path at the cemetery.

“The species of the tree was fitting for Louis because he was a soldier and loved going to the beach,” Cottey said.

Louis served in the U.S. Air Force Reserves at Grissom Air Force Base in Peru and took two trips a year with Marsha to Destin, Florida.

He served as the cemetery’s board president for the better part of a decade, and in various other capacities since he had joined it in 1989. Abraham’s father, Louis Abraham Sr., also served as president of the cemetery board.

It wasn’t just Abraham’s service the board wanted to recognize, but the way he went about it.

“For me to get a chance to know him over the course of 10 years was great because of how dedicated he was,” Cottey said as he got emotional. “He was a great role model and mentor for me.”

Marsha said her husband was not one to seek praise and was satisfied by quietly working on the cause he held dear.

“He didn’t want a lot of attention on himself, and he would be very humbled today,” she said with emotion as employees from Schneider’s Nursery planted the tree. “He never said no to anybody if someone ever asked him to do something.”

Louis Abraham played a big part in restarting the tree memorial program. It was something that had been done in the past, but then phased out.

The cemetery — known for its tree and park-like atmosphere — has lost many ash trees to the Emerald ash borer insect.

“We’re not talking 10 or 12, we’re talking 50,” Cottey said.

That was devastating because trees are part of the cemetery’s identity, Cottey said.

“A lot of newer cemeteries they’re developing are just flat stones, no trees because it’s a lot of maintenance, but we pride ourselves on our trees,” he said.

So, Cotter suggested restarting the program to replace trees and also give families a way to remember loved ones there.

“It helps a lot of families grieve,” he said.

It’s certain to help Kloeker and the family when they visit, which is regularly.

“We come here every day,” she said. “Dad is smiling. It will just be another smile for us when we’re out here.”

Abraham was supportive of the idea, Cottey said, because he liked trees and thought they made things look nice and made the cemetery unique. Many people walk the grounds for exercise or walk their dogs there.

“The newer cemeteries don’t have that feel of a park like ours,” he said. Riverview was established in 1882.

“It’s a lot more peaceful,” Cottey said.

As much as Abraham cared for the cemetery, he cared a lot about the people who worked there. He even passed along some valuable lessons to Cottey, who thought highly of Abraham.

Abraham taught him to prioritize treating people the right way, he said.

“And you can’t be a boss, but you have to be a friend,” he said. “He was that way for a lot of people. Work hard, treat every one fairly and be with your family.”

He was a big family man and that was the most important thing to him.”

There were practical things Abraham passed along, too.

“Do it right the first time, measure three times and cut once,” he said. “That was his policy.”

Cottey may have been learning those lessons, but Abraham thought a lot of him too, Kloeker said.

“He appreciated Frank,” she said. “Dad knows this place is in good hands.”

Cottey said being able to honor Abraham with a tree means a lot to the board and employees of the cemetery.

It’s not the only tree dedicated to Abraham’s memory in Seymour.

In October, a sycamore tree was dedicated to Abraham at Crossroads Community Park in Seymour.

Since Louis was a Seymour Rotary Club member from June 1971 to January 2018, the club wanted to do something in his memory.

The plaque has a picture of Louis and the Rotary logo and denotes his years of service and that he was a Paul Harris Fellow.

Abraham was a Seymour Rotary Club member from June 1971 to January 2018, and club members said he never missed a meeting. The group meets each Monday.

That shows how much he valued service.

And when anyone comes through Riverview Cemetery and takes the right path, they will see Abraham’s tree and a plaque in his honor.

Cottey said he employees will think of Abraham when they care for the cemetery that meant so much to him.

“I will think about Louis,” he said. “Every time.”

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To donate a tree to Riverview Cemetery, call their office at 812-522-4400.