Native son returns to Genoa to help upgrade cemetery |

Native son returns to Genoa to help upgrade cemetery

by Linda Hiller

During the last two months, Genoa native Walt Juchtzer spent hundreds of hours digging holes and trenches in the rocky Genoa Cemetery.

He wasn’t trying to dig up the bones of Snowshoe Thompson, nor was he excavating the future grave of some luckless Halloween victim.

Instead, Juchtzer was installing a water system which he discovered the need for while visiting the graves of his parents, Arnold and Charlotte (Syll) Juchtzer and his wife, Wanda (Dershem) Juchtzer.

“While I was out there paying my respects, I saw this lady struggling to haul a 5-gallon bucket of water to some spruce trees she was trying to water,” he said. “She’d walk 5 feet, rest, and then walk 5 more feet, so I got to talking to her, and I realized the cemetery needed a better water system. Talking to her put me in the mood to see what I could do.”

Juchtzer, who was born in 1920, raised in Genoa and graduated from Douglas County High School in 1939, first went to the five-member cemetery board, many of them old friends, and they basically told him there were no funds available for a new water system.

“They did say, ‘If he wants to pay for it, let him,'” Juchtzer said, which made him mad. “They told me, ‘It’s an old cemetery, leave it the way it was,’ but I’m the type of guy who just has to see the job get done.”

n Coming back “home.” Juchtzer left the Carson Valley after graduating from high school and went to seek his fortune in Alaska. Retired after 40 years with the Alaska State Highway Department, Juchtzer had recently moved south to the “lower 48,” and the life of a snowbird, wanting to spend winters in Hemet, Calif. and summers in this area or traveling in his Airstream trailer.

“I’m not a rich man, in fact, if I hadn’t sold my holdings in Alaska, I wouldn’t have had the money to do this,” he explained. “And, as my wife used to say, I’m a jack of all trades and master of nothin’.”

So, on Aug. 26, Juchtzer began to install a better water system in the Genoa Cemetery, a project that would take two months and $4,200 of his own money.

“I paid for it, it didn’t matter,” he said. “It needed to be done.”

He enlisted the aid of cemetery board members Ron Lange, who helped with the heavy lifting and Wallace Adams, who did the backhoe work.

“It’s very rocky out there,” he said. “I had to pay $1,200 in hired labor from Labor Finders in Carson City to hire people to help.”

In total, more than 4,000 feet of pipe was installed, most of it 2-feet deep in the rocky soil, providing a water spigot every 115 feet or so throughout the cemetery. Juchtzer also installed a “dribbler system,” providing water to each of the 73 pine trees at the historic cemetery.

“We also had a nine-man fire crew from the Nevada State Prison come in for two days to clean up, and they did a wonderful job,” he said.

Juchtzer said there were times during the last month working in the cemetery that he felt “around 200 years old.” While there, he had the chance to count each grave, and estimated that at least half of the 357 graves there have no living relatives in the area, meaning their sites remain untended.

n Snowshoe Thompson is buried there. One notable crumbling grave, that of Showshoe Thompson, had frequent visitors during the time Juchtzer was working. Tourists from Europe and South America came to see where he was buried, their interest piqued after learning about him at the museum down the road in Genoa.

“It sure seems to me that the historical society could take an interest in keeping up the cemetery plot of Snowshoe Thompson, at least,” he said. “People come to the museum to see about him and then they can just walk to the cemetery and see his actual grave. I think it could be in their interest to preserve the gravesite. The concrete is crumbling. They could put up signs pointing people to where it is and there are some other interesting graves there.”

Juchtzer said he doesn’t blame the cemetery board for a lack of monetary support for the water system, but he was surprised at the lack of volunteer help for the project.

“The Genoa Cemetery is very short on funds. I put up a notice at the Genoa store, asking for volunteers, but no one helped,” he said. “I was appalled at the lack of response.”

n Living history. Juchtzer has two brothers, Bill and Edward, and one sister, Elsie Adams, still living in the Northern Nevada area and two sisters, Zelma and Gertrude, who live in California. While he visited his boyhood home many times during the 40 years he lived in Alaska, Juchtzer said he is still surprised at the change in Genoa.

“After spending 40 years of my life in Alaska, I have come back to a different world, but have some wonderful memories of my childhood in Genoa and the Valley,” he said.

During his work in the cemetery, Juchtzer said he was visited by birds and deer, but no apparent ghosts.

“I never did get any back talk,” he said.

Juchtzer has since “flown south” to winter in Hemet, Calif., and hopes that the ball he started rolling won’t stop until the job is done.

“The effort on my part does not solve all the cemetery association problems,” he said. “They need a building to house the 400-foot well that Mr. Jack VanSickle donated and they need a fence around the cemetery. Caring is the word for both the living and the departed.”

Juchtzer suggested donations toward cemetery improvements and maintenance can be sent to the Genoa Cemetery Association, c/o Ron Lange, P.O. Box 554, Minden 89423.

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