Hope Cemetery, notes from March, April, and May

I’ve been doing some reading on death in general and cemeteries in particular.  I highly recommend Cemeteries by Keith Eggener, which has really helped me understand the difference between a rural cemetery and a memorial park; and Western attitudes toward death: from the Middle Ages to the present by Philippe Ariès.

The commission met twice in March — once on the first and once on the 22nd; once in April; and once in May.  You can find minutes and agendas for the Hope Cemetery Commission (and other boards and commissions) here.  As always, let me know if something in my notes needs clarification.  None of this is in any particular order.

The Friends of Hope Cemetery hosted their Spring lecture, titled Do You Know What Hell Is?, Sunday, March 27, at 3pm, at St. Spyridon Cathedral.  More information here.

The Friends also hosted two groups of students from Gates Lane School around Arbor Day, with a discussion of famous Worcester folks interred at Hope by John Anderson. 

The USDA ALB Eradication Program had requested the commission’s approval to conduct assessment training courses at the cemetery.  We approved, and they held their first training on March 3 and 4.  Trainings consist of bringing in 20-50 people who would have to identify tree species (on a course of the ALB program’s design, using existing cemetery trees) to identify whether or not a tree is of an ALB host tree species.  The ALB program also created fake damage (that is, fake exit holes and egg sites) onto certain trees to test the individuals on their ALB detection skills.  The damage would not affect the ultimate health of the cemetery’s trees.

In thanks for our letting them use this as a training site (and in honor of Arbor Day), the USDA brought about 20 volunteer arborists (that is, certified arborists volunteering their services) to Hope on April 17 to do tree pruning.

Moody Independent and John Stimpson Productions asked the commission’s approval to film a scene for a movie at Hope Cemetery.  We approved their request; the filming will likely take place in (or near) section 35 on Thursday, June 2.  They’ll be providing the prop headstone, and they won’t be focusing in on anyone else’s headstone; you can find the general gist of the movie here.

The barn: the cemetery is working with Steve Harvey (the city’s contracted structural engineer) to design the repairs to the structural components on the barn.  This will be out to bid this summer.  After the structural repairs, the commission will put together a timeline for further aesthetic restoration of the barn.

Stephanie, the cemetery clerk, found some designs for a cremain/columbarium section; the designs seem to have been commissioned by our predecessors in 1989.  We’ll be discussing those sometime in the future.  We’ve also discussed viewing some existing columbaria at Mount Auburn or Forest Hills cemeteries.

Mariann Castelli Hier, the city treasurer, spoke with us about our trust fund balances in February.  Here’s how we were looking in February.

Capital budget — as far as I’ve heard, we’re looking to do the following in the capital budget: (1) scanning of our cemetery records/lot cards/other cards/burial ledgers, etc. (which would be about $30,000), (2) new section development, (3) pickups, tractors, and mowers that need replacing.

(Regarding scanning of records, currently the Friends provide much of the support for genealogical research.  Scanning the records would mean that we could provide that information more quickly and efficiently, and we’d charge a reasonable fee so that it would provide the cemetery with additional income.)

There were some headstones that had been damaged by a car, and the repairs are still ongoing.  (That is, the cemetery is still working with the company making the restoration to make sure they are done to our satisfaction.)

Mausoleums and monuments:  The cemetery has a new policy that the foreman will do an initial review of all mausoleums (photos and documentation).  Thereafter once a week he will inspect mausoleums to see if there is any change in the condition.  Every six months new photos will be taken.

The Friends of Hope Cemetery will be having their annual meeting on Thursday, June 9, and the Commission will once again schedule our June meeting for the same day as their annual meeting.  Anthony Athy will be discussing new trends in burial.

Letter about private roads

Kristin Bergman wrote the following in a letter to the Telegram editor:

Back in the fall, I received notice that two of my neighbors petitioned the city to have our street made public. At the second hearing, held April 13, the Standing Committee on Public Works voted against the majority of abutters, to go ahead and convert our road from private to public.

She’s referring to this meeting, where there was a second hearing for her road.  (The first hearing was at this meeting.)

I was under the impression that if a majority of abutters were against converting a road from private to public, it wouldn’t happen, but in the case of Ms. Bergman’s road, the committee voted for a conversion.

I’ve noted before that I live on a private road (that will only become public over many of my neighbor’s dead bodies).  There are basically no benefits to living on a private road except that no one wants to drive on it (no one, that is, except the teenagers who make a sport of dodging the potholes while driving ATVs and mopeds down the street at excessive speeds), which Ms. Bergman notes later on in her letter.

I think the one consolation for Ms. Bergman — or, indeed, anyone who finds herself having to pony up megabucks for a street conversion — is that there is such a backlog that it’ll be six years before you have to pay up.  (Of course, by then the cost of the conversion is even more than the amount you were originally quoted, but hopefully you’ve lost enough brain cells in the intervening period that it matters less!)

She also wrote the following in the comments to the letter:

The city never should have allowed the other houses to be built without re-doing the road, imho.

This, I think, is the bane of private street living.  You might buy a house on a private street.  The street’s not in wonderful condition, but since there are only twenty or so cars that drive down it on a regular basis, it doesn’t really matter.

Then developers start shoehorning in duplexes left and right, and pretty soon the traffic on your street has left the road in horrible condition.

The city, in the meantime, has reaped the benefit of the increased property value for the developed house lots.

But you, the resident, have to pay for the improvements to a street — improvements that would likely not have been needed (or asked for) had there not been increased traffic on your street.

There has to be a better way.  I am not sure what that better way is, but this is not it.