Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun
Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009 | 3:53 p.m.
Teresa Deeter smiles broadly as she ushers visitors into the slightly stuffy, block wall room. She points to tan cabinets in the corner designed for filing microfilm — the new home for her irrigation fittings.
The grounds maintenance supervisor and now acting superintendent of the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery has been waiting a long time for a safe place for the tools of her trade. The old tin building on Veterans Memorial Drive next to the Boulder City Airport just hasn't provided that.
"I found mice in my fittings," the petite blond said. "I had a bat in there."
Not to mention the foot-long snake that once tried to crawl under the door of her shared office.
Deeter provided tours of the veterans cemetery's new 5,400-square-foot maintenance building Oct. 15, when the Nevada Office of Veterans Services dedicated the $2.3 million structure funded by a federal Department of Veterans Affairs grant.
It was long overdue, said Carole Turner, deputy executive director of the state veterans office.
"We had outgrown the old and arcane tin building out front," she said before listing the modern features of the new building: locker rooms with showers for employees who might get wet or come into contact with chemicals during their workday, a conference room with kitchen that doubles as a break room, a welding area, three-bay garage for the crew's trucks, an outdoor loading dock that can handle headstones, energy-efficient heating and cooling and a wastewater recycling system that reuses resources.
The dedication came complete with cake, a red ribbon to cut and dignitaries including representatives from the congressional delegation, state Controller Kim Wallin, veterans office Director Tim Tetz, state legislators and executives from the architects and contractors.
Most exciting for Deeter was her new office — an upgrade from the 3-by-4-foot desk she occupied in a corner of former Superintendent Jack Porrino's office. Since Porrino's retirement in July, the 11-year cemetery employee has taken on some of his duties until the state fills the job.
She has a personal stake in keeping things running smoothly at the cemetery. Her father's marker is there.
Deeter, who started in the landscaping business in 1979, had hoped to get a job at a golf course or cemetery when she and her husband moved to the Las Vegas area from Lake Havasu, Ariz., in 1999.
Her father, an artist, had died the year before and been cremated, but the family had not placed a marker for him yet in the veterans cemetery in Phoenix, which was the closest to his home in Tucson. Before he died, Deeter had asked him to paint rainbows in the sky for her to remember him.
The Sunday before she received the job offer at the veterans cemetery, there was a double rainbow above its gates, she said. Once she had the job, she asked her siblings if she could arrange to place his marker there.
"My father always loved Boulder City when he would come through Las Vegas," she said.
Now not only is Deeter's father memorialized at the cemetery, a piece of his Tucson ranch lives and thrives near the front entrance. Deeter created a cactus garden to the right of the main entrance, using plants she brought up from her father's property as well as a few bushes and cacti from around the cemetery. With her work and the transplanted plants, the memorial garden came to the cemetery for free.
Now Deeter goes to her father's grave every Friday to polish the marker and place flags. The large cirrus cactus that dominates the desert garden began with two arms and now has about 50, she said. She often gives cuttings to friends and frequent visitors to the cemetery.
And she talks to the cirrus, telling her father through it how things are going.
"I told him I finally have my own office, that I'm not in a cubbyhole anymore," she said. "And on days that are hotter than heck, I ask him to blow a breeze on my face, and he always does."