LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Most in WAVE Country are familiar with the cemetery right at the intersection of Broadway and Baxter Avenue. It is a beautiful space with winding paths, graves across the tops of hills, and lakes and ponds in the valleys. What many may not know is what it takes to keep Cave Hill Cemetery beautiful and respectful for those whose lives and stories rest there.
The City Fathers did not have a cemetery in mind when they acquired part of the old farm that the Johnston family called Cave Hill. The city was looking for a spot to place a railroad. When that did not happen, a committee of city leaders selected Edmund Francis Lee to create a beautiful place for transition after life. Lee was a civil engineer and perfectly suited to create a new and emerging cemetery concept using the natural contour of the land for cemetery purposes.
The cemetery today is 296 acres with over 600 species of plants and trees. There are about 196,000 individuals interred on the grounds. There are also more than 200 Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.
In one of the oldest, most remote spots of Cave Hill Cemetery they have added something new.
"A lot of people don't know," stated Rodolfo Bernal as he laughed and threw up his hands.
Bernal once parked his car right outside the main entrance of the cemetery on Baxter Avenue as he made his way to work at Kentucky Refuge Ministries.
"I worked on the other side of this wall," he says laughing. "I parked right there for a long time."
Bernal decided after admiring the beauty of the cemetery on the other side of the wall, he would ask to look around the grounds. He did just that. And it changed not only Bernal's life, but Cave Hill Cemetery as well.
"I'm so proud to be part of this institution," he shared, almost shouting.
Bernal looked at the beauty of the landscaping and all it had to offer, not just for the families who visit their loved ones, but for everyone. It was at that time Bernal convinced the management of Cave Hill to think of having bees on the grounds.
"We have nine hives here that Rodolfo manages," boasted Foundation Manager Michael Higgs. "We hope to add 12 additional hives."
Bernal points out, "They require a lot of work."
For that reason, the cemetery will bring on an intern to join the Apiarist Adolfo Bernal.
"We'll do so in partnership with a local FFA chapter from Seneca High School," Higgs added. "We intend to build an apiary."
The apiary will house the new hives the cemetery hopes to bring on. It will also give Bernal and his team a place to harvest all the beneficial products bees provide.
"We bottle the honey," Higgs said. "Sell the honey here at our Administration Office, and we use it as a fundraiser."
The funds go directly to the Cave Hill Heritage Foundation, which was created to secure funding for the long-term preservation of the unique cemetery. They must find the funds to restore the historical monuments and buildings, preserve the arboretum setting and continue community education and awareness.
"The honey here is fantastic," Higgs said.
"These bees produce more honey than the bees in the country," Bernal said. "Almost twice as much."
Both Higgs and Bernal believe it is the environment they live in. Not just in the cemetery, but the surrounding area.
"There's a lot of flowers around," Bernal explained. "People in the city keep their gardens watered."
In 2016, Cave Hill Cemetery gave away or sold a total of 500 bottles of Cave Hill Honey.
"It doesn't come from Brazil or Michigan or North Dakota," Bernal said "It comes from here. It's local. It's being produced in downtown Louisville."
Bernal produces not just honey, but many other items from his hives. He proudly displayed bottled pollen and a salve made from the honey he harvested.
"The bees are important," Bernal said. "To me, the honey is medicine. Everything that the bees produce is healthy."
You can get Cave Hill Honey in the Administration Office of the cemetery during regular business hours.
The Cave Hill Heritage Foundation cordially invites the community for a beautiful fall evening of tours, good food and fellowship as they celebrate the preservation of Louisville's landmark during the 4th Annual Cocktails on the Lawn event, Tuesday, October 3rd. Attire for the event is casual. Horse & Carriage tours, Motor Coach Tours, and Valet Parking will be provided.Cindy Sullivan will be the Emcee for the event. Tickets are $25, and available by phone at 502-451-5630.