10-year-old brings color to inmates' graves

CANON CITY – It's a sunny, windy, warm day in Canon City. The best kind for Jeweleen Reiter and what she likes to do.

"I like to go to the cemetery," said Reiter.

It's admittedly an odd choice for anyone -- especially when you're 10.

"My mom took me there, she showed me the prisoners, and I guess I felt bad," Reiter said. "I like cemeteries, it makes me think of lives."

But when you get to know Reiter, what drives her, why she loves it here and keeps coming back, you'll get why this 10-year-old is making the choice to be at a cemetery every chance she has.

"I feel like they need help," she said. "I'm thinking about how I'm making them happier."

"I might be called weird," Reiter added.

But once you get to know her, you'll probably wish more people were weird just like her.

"These people, they were people like us, except for they did wrong and yeah, they did wrong so of course they're going to be punished, I don't think they should get this much of punishment," Reiter said.

Her favorite part of Canon City's Greenwood Cemetery is the Department of Corrections section. Inmates from nearby prisons are buried here. Their graves are as grim as some of their lives may have been. All the graves are marked with metal rusted markers. At least half don't have names.

"It should be a happy place," Reiter said. "Color is what we need. I think everyone deserves a little bit of happiness."

About a year ago, Reiter decided to bring some happiness to the inmates by decorating their graves -- many nameless -- with artificial flowers.

"That one is missing a flower," she said walking around the cemetery and putting flowers on every headstone. "Those ones over there need work on. I want to see color."

Color everywhere, but mostly in once place, for one man. The only inmate with a marble headstone.

"I came to see Joe [Arridy]," Reiter said, "he was innocent. He didn't kill who they said he did."

Joe Arridy was a mentally disabled man wrongfully executed in 1939 for a rape and murder he didn't commit. Governor Bill Ritter pardoned Arridy in 2011.

Reiter says she identifies with Arridy, that they're kindred spirits perhaps.

"He didn't do it," Reiter said. "I know because he didn't have correct thinking I guess, he's like me, I guess, kind of."

If 10 year old Reiter doesn't have what she calls "correct" thinking, then she's in good company with someone who is many decades her senior.

"Every person was important in one way or another," says Tom Monaco, who is on the Greenwood Cemetery Board.

He says he does pretty much anything and everything around here. He's not one for titles. To him, everyone is important.

"Doesn't matter if they were a housewife or a governor," he said. "We have both out here."

"It's my second family," Monaco added. "We go on vacation, I have my mail held, I go pick up the mail at the post office, first thing I do is I come out to the cemetery and drive through, tell everyone I'm back."

Monaco has volunteered out at the Greenwood Cemetery for years.

"I just want to bring this cemetery back to life," he said. "They might have passed on, but their life, what they did and everything else, can still be brought out."

Monaco doesn't have a favorite, so he says. Yet he takes care of one particular grave, with similar care Reiter does. Arridy's grave.

"It's just a sad story, really sad," he said.

Generations apart, Monaco and a 10-year-old see a lot of things the same way.

"We all deserve a little bit of love, cause we can always ask for forgiveness," Reiter said.

A difficult concept in the land of convicted criminals, outcasts and the misunderstood.

Reiter collects the artificial flowers she puts on inmates' graves. If you want to know more about her effort or contribute, here is a link: http://on.fb.me/1t2xHNz

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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