Someone You Should Know: For Vet Cemetery director, “heart and soul” are keys to job

Someone You Should Know

Like so many people, Pamela Helbling-Schafer’s first exposure to the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery was shrouded in grief.

“My first husband actually was in the National Guard,” she says. “He passed away in March of 2003 from lung cancer. And he was buried here.”

In the months following her husband’s interment, she heard from the then-director of the cemetery. “He kept in touch with me and asked if I’d come help out. And who wouldn’t accept that honor?”

She came to work full time in the fall of 2003. Now she’s in her eighth year as director — overseeing 35 acres of hallowed ground, over 500 burials each year, and a team of people who take the work very seriously.

“There are no re-dos out here,” she explains. “so when they’re doing a burial, they have to make sure everything is done properly, effectively, and efficiently the first time.”

Helbling-Schafer walks the narrow avenues of the cemetery often, keeping an eye out for wear and tear on any of the 7,000 or so headstones — and reflecting on her own connection to this place.

“I know what it’s like to lose a spouse,” she says. “I do have family members buried here as well, as well as lots of friends, unfortunately. So this job isn’t just work. It’s my heart and soul.”

She says those two things — heart and soul — are at the core of her work. Because even though she’s in the business of burials, every ceremony is sacred. “It’s not going through the motions. It’s sometimes the first time folks have been here — their first time experiencing what they’re going through. And we have to be there for them,” she says.

“It can’t be regiment. It has to be wholeheartedly heartfelt in all of the assistance we provide them.”

That’s why Pamela Helbling-Schafer is Someone You Should Know.

Earlier this fall, Governor Doug Burgum honored Helbling-Schafer with the Harvest Award for Excellence in Quality.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Latest Stories

More Local News

Recent Videos

College basketball

College Hockey

A cool down is in store for Sunday

Tips: defrosting your windshield quickly

Camping numbers way up in 2020

COVID-19 ND Watch 11-28-20

Minot Boy's Hockey

KX Conversation: Mindfulness Educator & Occupational Therapist Heidi Woods on mental health concerns

KX Conversation: Pastor Nathan Chapman says there's still lots to be grateful for this year

A warm first half of the weekend

Friday, November 27th, 2020 - KX Storm Team Morning Forecast - Dave Holder

Brent's Bearded Brigade

Warm temperatures highlight the forecast

Thursday, November 26th, 2020 - KX Storm Team Morning Forecast - Dave Holder

UMary Women's Basketball

Vaccine Questions

SYSK: Dr. Perk

KX Convo: Ebonie Siemer

Traveling Nurse

New Unit

More Video

KX News Trending Stories

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss