NORTH LIBERTY– Johnson County provides one of those lesser-known but most wonderful places to visit– the North Liberty Ridgewood Cemetery. While many go there often to set on the old hillside benches and remember family and friends, many go there to experience one of the most extensive plantings of peonies you will ever see. It’s especially meaningful in May when that peony display is at its finest. They are absolutely beautiful with their many varieties of old pioneer multi-colored flowers– and oh my, that distinct and wonderful smell.
A life-time Canadian fishing friend is buried here. How he is missed. The old Scales Bend Road Ellenberger brothers are resting there beside one of the more magnificent monuments. Many other pioneer North Liberty families– the Ranshaws, the Stoners, the Youngs, the Meyers, the Greenes, the Alts– are remembered in Ridgewood cemetery buried among those gorgeous peonies blooming to celebrate their lives.
This scenic resting place of so many of our forefathers is further enhanced by the cemeteries location high on the south sloping hill. The panoramic view of North Liberty and other distant communities with their five visible water towers, including the Amana Colonies, can be seen. The view of house outlines reflecting in the valley ponds below add significantly during an early morning sunrise or late afternoon sunset.
Adding to the year-round beauty is that family members and friends honor their loved ones with additional special wreathes and flowers. Some are very creative. There are always the community groups providing a time to reflect and remember by holding special services on Memorial and Veterans Days. Looking south over the steep hill from the main entrance down that row of flags placed there by the North Liberty V.F.W on Memorial day is more than special– it’s prayerful.
Early morning visitors to the cemetery are always rewarded with some special wildlife treat such as numerous nesting eagles and ospreys getting an early start to build nests or forage for their young. Stick around until mid-morning to view the turkey vultures from their overnight resting on the sunny south slope of the Coralville dam. You will witness their amazing ability to catch the wind currents and glide endlessly over the wooded hills and pastured valleys. You’ll certainly get a more positive perspective of that homely bird.
Adding to the wildlife scene will likely be a flock of pelicans or geese silhouetted against a sunrise or sunset. There is always a variety of both flying and ground wildlife from the woods bordering nearby Coralville and Macbride lakes.
The cemetery is spectacular in another unusual way– fireworks viewing from among the peonies. Cars line the narrow cemetery roadways at dusk during the fourth of July to view numerous fireworks displays from near-by the south communities such as Solon, West Branch, Amana, Coralville, Iowa City, Hills, Tiffin and even Riverside and Lone Tree. A burst of light can also be experienced, from behind you and over the tree-tops, from Cedar Rapids, Marion and Swisher. I doubt there is another location where such a variety of pyrotechnics can be viewed.
We encourage you to visit the beautifully maintained North Liberty Ridgewood Cemetery, that cemetery high on the hill on Scales Bend Road just north of town. Take time to remember what’s important in life– and smell the peonies.