Des Moines Man Donates $100,000 to Woodland Cemetery

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  One of the oldest cemeteries in the metro now has some new features.

Woodland Cemetery recently welcomed 20 new granite angels, but the installation was quite a process.

“I went to the genealogy agency here, telephone book, word of mouth, and so on. Finally, I hit the 3rd and 4th generations,” said Gerald LaBlanc, who works with preservation of Veterans Marker and Monuments.

It took him almost four years to track everyone down. While this is a public cemetery, each space is private property and he needed permission from every owner to put anything on the property. Once he did that, it was smooth sailing.

LeBlanc already knew what he wanted to put up. He’s traveled much of western Europe and wanted replicas of its famous statues. He picked the best from Italy, Germany, France, Ireland, and England.

In all, the 20 new statues will spruce up the Woodland Cemetery quite a bit. On average, each one cost around $5,000. The total cost of the project was $94,000, all of which came out of LeBlanc's pocket.

LeBlanc has already donated $85,000 to put up on the arch at the entrance. When asked why he has spent so much money on the cemetery, he said his main reason has to do with family.

“As a child, I came out here with my father up and through my teen years. He put up several of these monuments. He was in the granite business, so I got acquainted out here very much," he said.

LeBlanc believes this will be his last project at the cemetery, but he hopes someone will keep working out there to improve the area.

More changes at the cemetery are expected in the near future; Jen Fletcher with the City of Des Moines said someone donated a large chunk of money to refurbish the old headstones. They hope to start soon and finish the work before winter.