OSHKOSH — Floral arrangements have long been used to spruce up gravesites, especially around Memorial Day. A crafts project at St. Jude the Apostle Parish helps make that look easy to achieve.
Debbie Dumann, 63, and Susan Peters, 70, are part of the crafts group that has been meeting for 25 years. About five years ago, Dumann decided to make floral saddles for the tops of gravestones and brought in Peters to help her about a year later.
“They’re a floral decoration on a framework that sits on top of the stone,” Dumann says. “We sell them at all of the Masses, one weekend at the St. Vincent site and another weekend at the Sacred Heart site. We also sell them at our picnic.”
Dumann said she had seen such saddles in different cemeteries and decided to make them for sale at St. Jude. They charge $28 for a new saddle and less for a refurbished one from previous years. The saddles were popular right away and have cleared about $1,000 a year. The money is used for various projects at the church.
Currently, they have purchased a stove for the parish’s new kitchen and are planning to purchase other kitchen items.
Dumann estimates that she and Peters have made about 400 saddles in the past five years. Many of them are displayed at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Oshkosh, but she knows many have gone into out-of-town cemeteries.
“When I go into different cemeteries and see floral saddles, I can tell which ones I’ve done,” she says. “I’ve gotten phone calls from people who say, ‘I’m not Catholic. Can I still buy one?’” she says.
“It’s something that’s nice to put on the gravestones,” Peters says. “I have one for my mother and one for my grandmother and grandfather. My cousin also has one for her mom and dad. I think it looks very nice and it gives a peaceful feeling.
“It’s something that I know my grandmother and my mom would appreciate — an individual doing something nice for them. We’re helping other people out by doing it for them and for their families.”
She says they can make the saddles in various colors and with various types of artificial flowers so families can pick the look they want. A red, white and blue one is particularly appropriate for someone who has been in the service, she says.
The saddles last about two years and can be redone by the pair. They also offer floral cans that can be pressed down into the ground for gravestones that can’t accommodate a saddle.
“It’s a good project,” Dumann says. “It beautifies the cemetery. These make people happy that they have something to put out for their loved ones.”
She says the other women in the crafts group help out with sales of the saddles, as well as other crafts they all create. These include baked potato bags for the microwave, a best-seller with 1,200 to 1,500 sales; quilts; and other projects that are sold at two crafts fairs a year and the parish picnic.
“We work all year on projects,” Dumann says. “We’ve been together 25 years or more, and I appreciate the camaraderie. It’s a good group of women. We all pitch in together and do whatever we have to do. We’re a village.”