The first time Will Strickler saw Crosscut Cemetery, with unkept trees and overgrown weeds covering its gates, he knew something had to be done about its appearance.

“You would have never known a cemetery is there,” he said about Crosscut Cemetery, near 48th and Van Buren streets. “It’s heartbreaking to see it the way it is.”

In comparison to the lush and more elaborate cemeteries he was used to seeing in the Midwest, Strickler said he was inspired to do something about the desolate resting place of more than 150 people. In late April, a clean-up group of volunteers helped Strickler clean out leaves, trim overgrown oleanders and pick up any debris around Crosscut.

“Cemeteries in general need to be respectively kept up,” Strickler said.

Dating back to the early 1800s, Crosscut is a one-acre cemetery in east Phoenix owned by a family who has three other relatives buried on the grounds. After confusion with the city of Phoenix and the Pioneer Cemetery Association left no party with responsibility for the cemetery’s upkeep, it went without maintenance for two years.

Just miles down from GateWay Community College, where Strickler works, it was the “perfect fit” for a project for the Ahwatukee resident to give back to the area. Part of the community college’s Good Neighbor Program, Strickler had previously walked the area near the college to meet with local business owners. It was then that Strickler found the cemetery and was determined to find out more about it.

He is now planning another clean-up event at Crosscut in October to finish cleaning the parameter of the cemetery. Hoping to recruit more student volunteers at GateWay, Strickler also wants to make it a point to clean up the grounds every six to eight months.

Though he didn’t have any particular interest in local cemeteries, their history and the purpose they serve in a community prior to this, Strickler said that his project “opened up a can of worms” into learning about what he can do for Crosscut.

“I wanted to do something for the neighborhood that would spruce it up,” he said. “It’s something that deserves to be kept clean.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.

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