It is the end of an era for the town of Chesterton this month as Chesterton
Cemetery employee Delores Brooks will be retiring after 66 years of service,
most of those years working at the side of her late husband Ralph.
Brooks, who has lived in the Furnessville area all her life, will end her
lease with the National Parks Service and relocate to Monticello to be
closer to her daughter and son-in-law. The site where Brooks resides now
will be used by the Parks for wildlife preservation.
One of the houses she lived in was a house built in the 1870s by her
grandfather and another house built by her brother, which will be cleared
“I’m going to be sad when I leave Chesterton. That’s the main thing,” said
Brooks, who will be turning 87 in November. “I’m going to take my memories
Many of the memories include her husband who began working at the cemetery
when he was fourteen years old. He received his first paycheck in 1934 and
worked as an employee of the cemetery until his death in 2007, said Brooks.
The two wed on April 15, 1944, in Furnessville after meeting each other at a
local roller rink.
“That’s how all girls met their husbands in those days,” she said.
Brooks said her husband Ralph would sometimes be called out to the cemetery
in the late hours of the night to dig a plot. He would do the digging by
hand until 1952 when a tractor became available.
Ralph was sexton of the cemetery for about 60 years.
He also served 42 years with the Chesterton Volunteer Fire Department and
was Fire Chief from 1962 until 1980. In 1991, Ralph was named Chesterton
Citizen of the year.
Both he and his wife were members of the Porter County Farm Bureau and
farmed in Furnessville. They were also active in the Duneland Historical
Brooks tends to her hobbies often and keeps up with craftwork, photography,
and baking, where her daughter says her cooking talents are “unequalled.”
She also lends a hand at St. Patrick, Augsburg, and Burstrom cemeteries
which her husband also looked after in his lifetime.
“There’s always been plenty of work to do,” said Brooks.
Brooks has served as one of the seven Chesterton Cemetery board members and
also the three-member board of the Furnessville Cemetery.
Chesterton residents may remember the large garden that Brooks kept on the
eastern property of the Chesterton Cemetery for many years where she grew
flowers, vegetables, and strawberries, her favorite.
Even after helping Ralph for over 60 years, Brooks didn’t become an official
employee of the cemetery until 2007.
She said her favorite aspect about her job is being able to help people find
the places where their past loved ones have been laid to rest. Problem
solving is also regarded one of her highest talents by those who know her.
“There is hardly an inch in that cemetery that she doesn’t know about,” said
Duneland historian and fellow Chesterton Cemetery board member Nancy
Brooks said she is very close to her family. Her granddaughter Cindy and two
great-grandchildren, live in Cincinnati. Great-granddaughter Katie recently
participated in gymnastics at the National Junior Olympics in Virginia.
Brooks is already looking forward to visiting her many friends in Chesterton
after her move to Monticello.
One of those friends is the Chesterton Cemetery’s black-and-white feline
“I’m very proud of my life,” summed up Brooks. She also told the
Chesterton Tribune she would like to give credit to Ralph in her years
of accomplished service.