Belmont Cemetery prepares for Christmas

THE Hams are the traditional gatekeepers of Belmont Cemetery.

Each day at dawn Bill and Deirdre Ham walk from their home across the road to unlock the gate and then again at dusk to secure it.

Caring for the cemetery is personal for the Hams, as their daughter Terri Dowey was buried there 18 years ago.

"We just like to keep it looking nice for her and everyone else's loved ones," Mrs Ham said.

In 1991, the couple formed Friends of Belmont Cemetery, when the burial grounds became overgrown and neglected.

Mrs Ham said the group was not only positive for the cemetery, but also its members.

"It's quite rewarding because you meet other people with stories just like yours," Mrs Ham said.

"We've made some really great friends here."

Today, about a dozen people are part of the group, which jointly cares for the cemetery with Lake Macquarie council staff.

The cemetery's colourful gardens, tiled columbarium walls where ashes are kept, and even the sign on the gate are due to the group's work.

Last Saturday, Friends of Belmont Cemetery gathered for its annual clean-up before Christmas Day, which, alongside Mother's Day, is one of the cemetery's busiest.

Together, they worked to tidy the lawns, prune the trees and remove broken glass and dead flowers.

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