The Keystone Cemetery is the only cemetery in the world that has a view of Mount Rushmore. The actual name of the cemetery is Mountain View Cemetery. It has 133 lots and is about nine acres in the middle of the Black Hills National Forest. The boundaries of the cemetery are similar to the old time wooden caskets. The configuration happened by chance and was determined by natural terrain.
The cemetery has been through a lot of change and maintenance recently. It will undergo more as community members work on creating a Veteran’s Memorial.
A monument out in front of the Keystone Community Center is going to be removed and brought up to the cemetery. This one has four names on it now. The plaque only has enough space for 60-65 names. There are more than 65 veterans that have been found to be included on the plaque.
It has been decided a new plaque will list all of the veterans that are in the Keystone cemetery. Names might have to be smaller on the plaque that still needs to be made.
There is also a plaque that has been made which lists the U.S. military eras. This will be on a different monument.
“This will be the identifier for the veterans who served in more than one war,” said Rick Brandfas, who is working on the project.
There are three flag poles there at the Memorial site right now. Two of them are pretty new. The American flag has been there but public works recently installed the POW/MIA flag and the South Dakota state flag.
All of the new flagpoles were donated.
The continuation of the plan is to get an open-air enclosure by the monument to hold ceremonies on a concrete pad. An ADA- accessible sidewalk will go to the right of the concrete pad.
Town of Keystone trustee Rick Brandfas took over the cemetery project in May of this year. Kwinn Neff, the past president of the Keystone town board, used to play a big role in what happened at the cemetery.
Brandfas has served in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army National Guard, spending a total of 33 years in the service.
“It was a no-brainer for me to help out,” Brandfas said.
Brandfas doesn’t want to discount anybody who served and is not buried in the Keystone cemetery. But the important thing right now is honoring those buried in the Keystone cemetery.
Brandfas would like to have another plaque made that details the veterans in Keystone that are buried in national cemeteries or in cemeteries overseas.
“That will be an ongoing thing. It will be a little more difficult to compile,” Brandfas said.
Dustin Chase, a former Boy Scout did all of the research for the plaque on the monument that is in Keystone now and found four veterans who were killed in action (KIA) that were registered under the Town of Keystone. He created two general statements for the plaque. The statements said: “In Memory Of Those Who Rose Upon Eagles Wings And Sacrificed Themselves For Our Country. Please Remember The Heroes And Heroines Who Died For Our Freedom.” The second statement: “Conflicts All Over The World, Past And Present, Takes Lives Every Day. Today We Honor Those Lives Of Men And Women, As Heroes And Heroines, Who Fought To Defend Our Freedom. Thank You For All That You Have Given And Peace Be With You.”
The Boy Scouts troop raised money for the original monument. The rest of the funds were given to the Boy Scouts from a local property owner, Jim Kemp. The Town of Keystone didn’t have to pay anything.
Scoutmaster with Troop 99 with the Boy Scouts, Steven Chase, recently decided to take on assisting with the new project with the help of his scouts. Chase will be the only one going to help now until other scouts go to fulfill requirements for Eagle Scout projects.
Boy Scout Johnathan Powers found that many veterans from Keystone are not just buried in the Keystone Cemetery but are in the National Cemetery near Sturgis or other cemeteries within the Black Hills.
Brandfas thinks they will be working on the project again in the spring. He would love for it to be completed before the Sturgis Rally.
“What will hold us back is the monuments,” Brandfas said.
“They take a long time to do.”
Brandfas also talked about putting benches up there so people can sit during a ceremony.
He would like to see a Veteran’s Day event take place there in the future.
Glen Talley who is a member of the American Legion Custer Post 46 has placed American flags on any known veteran’s grave in Keystone.
“I stopped and talked to him. They actually have an Honor Guard that we could use for ceremonies,” Brandfas said.