Hope Cemetery Commission Hearing – tonight at 6:30pm

We’re holding another hearing tonight at 6:30pm at City Hall/Esther Howland Chamber.

If you would like to provide any input towards further development at the cemetery, or have any other feedback to provide, now is the time to do it.

Here are my notes from the November 30 meeting:

6:41 – Rob A opens the meeting. Here for the first of a couple of information gathering meetings regarding master plan for Hope Cemetery. Dave and Tom are here. They will talk about their background.

Bill Wallace: thanks everyone for coming on behalf of his fellow commissioners. Our job is purely advisory, we are interested in what you have to say so that…lots of issues: best uses, best practices, population growth, record keeping.

Rob: we are trying to begin process of looking at historical past (where we’ve been) and look at where we are going to go. This will help us redefine cemetery – get us ready for next 20-40 years. Help us expand, generate revenue. City does support the cemetery, but we do generate revenue, put it into a perpetual care fund.

There is no bad question, any question or comment you have, let us know so that we can develop this document.

As we begin, we will streamline comments into more condensed document.

 

Dave Crispin: he carried his first casket in 1971 in Blue Hill Cemetery in Braintree, still a part-time employee in that cemetery. He has civil engineer license, landscape license. Has worked with Tom for 20+ years on projects similar to this. Blending something that goes from colonial slates to modern flat markers and doing it tastefully is key.

6:47 –

Tom Daly: founder and principal of Cemetery Helpful Solutions. Started in the late 1960s working in cemeteries. He has an operational background in cemeteries. He and Dave are both involved with New England Cemetery Association and Mass Cemetery Association; Tom has served as president of both groups.

6:52 –

Dave begins the presentation –

Cemeteries are about memories. They had done a similar study in Fitchburg about two years ago. In that cemetery, blend of old and new.

They took a quick look at the “blank canvas” areas of the cemetery.

1 – in back of new office building. Center portion actively used for tree stumps, but could be used to expand.

2 – old compost site – part of this used for excess soil from grave-digging

3- near equipment garage – we know that is on historic register

4 – former chapel site – there may be a foundation under there from an old building

5 – ball fields – laid out in 1981, thirty years ago and has not sold that well.

A few ideas:

Different types of memorials. What is below ground is common, but what is above ground is what makes the cemetery unique. Uprights, slants, flush (bronze or granite), obelisks/statuary, and feature memorials (for cremation gardens).

Committal areas have become popular. The services would happen in a committal area.

Niche walls for cremated remains.

Community mausoleum; he is not aware of any municipalities that have gone this way.

Columbaria.

Military feature; could be used for Veterans Day or Memorial Day assembly area.

7:00 –

Public comment

Paul Swydan of Council of Eastern Orthodox Churches – in the past we have had a section designated strictly for Orthodox Christians. Now that section is full, but people still want to use it. He gets calls every day that folks want to get into the Orthodox section. Would like to see section 2 or part of it designated as Orthodox. Section 19 and 20 not plotted out but has graves assigned, would like to see if that can be done soon. We have been in the city of Worcester with this system in the early 1950s, we hold services on Memorial Day, on feast days, it’s a big part of our fellowship.

Rob asks how many burials (minimal or ideal). Paul estimates that the Orthodox community has 3-4 funerals every two weeks. He feels at least a few hundred. As soon as he announces the graves are available, they’ll be sold. In the past, the Council has purchased the land and sold the plots. They don’t want to do that, but would like those plots reserved for Orthodox Christians.

They also own Washburn area and use that for indigent burials (not just Orthodox). This is way out in the back.

Tom: either than graves, how do services need to be performed? Understanding burial disposition.

Paul: it’s the same as any other burial. There is a priest, we hold a brief Trisagion prayer at the casket itself, final blessings are given, we move on. Nothing unusual that the cemetery has to do in that respect.

Tom: We are only talking casket burials?

Fr. Moraitis of St Spyridon: we have canon law that does not allow cremation. We cannot perform an Orthodox funeral in the church for them. We are talking strictly casket burials. Just this Saturday, wife was buried in a single plot in the cemetery, and they could not find space for the husband near there. Suggestion of the funeral director was to cremate and put ashes there. He couldn’t do an Orthodox funeral service for them.

His parish has 60/70/80 year old members. 90% of interments are at Hope Cemetery, he is there 3-4 times a week. In addition to funeral services, we have memorial services several times the first year, and then every year thereafter. Memorial Day we have a unified service. There are four Saturdays set aside the year focused on the remembrance of those who have fallen asleep.

The cemetery plays a big part in our tradition. Much reverence for the dead.

It would make his life easier if people are buried in a similar area to the previous ones. The area near Hope Avenue would be perfect for the Orthodox. Even if it is not developed just for Orthodox, know that it will mostly be bought by Orthodox people.

Question from Rob: if we go down this road to make a new section, is there any needs for that section that the churches have that we need to take note of?

Fr M: in Greece, most graves are temporary, raised up two feet and marble. The flat stone is not what we want to go with. Generally, the people want to be by the gravesite, not in a staging area. If you gave us the responsibility, we would care for it and if we needed to sell the plots, (here he is speaking about his particular parish), he would do it.

Would like possibility of a double deep burial. There is no issue with us having that for our burial. He is looking in the thousands in the next 20 years for what we will need.

Within our faith tradition, it’s a very important part to maintain the graves of our loved ones. This is our cemetery, this is where we are going to end up.

Brenda Sullivan, Worcester resident, cemetery educator and artist: two items:

  • Landscape and design. Wants to know how much space is currently available, and what the plan would mean. How long would the plan be for.

Dave: he thinks we’re in better shape than most municipal cemeteries. He suspects 20 or more years of space left, but that’s part of what we will study.

Rob: depends. We need to look at style and type of burial we are going to do. Cremations, cremation gardens, very different than single depth grave with upright (versus double depth).

He envisions that master plan will give us guidance for next 10-15 years. That is about how things work for the other parks and their master plans. It’s a living document. What we don’t want to do is build something in a section and then realize that there was a better position for it. Look at cemetery in totality and look at those pieces.

Brenda, second question: when she looks at the picture, when she comes down 290 and sees section that is cleared out, it looks clear cut. Would like to see something that blends the older and newer sections. [I think she is talking about plantings.]

Asks about other cemeteries she might be familiar with in their work. Dave’s response: Cohasset (blended flush marker section with much older section), Plymouth.

Dave says they have done some New England-wide projections on the rise of cremation, will be a massive cremation. Demand for full casket will be fairly steady for the next twenty years. Surprising is that 60% of those cremated get memorialized as well.

Tom talks about reconfiguring roads, etc. to make space, create new focal points.

Tom: municipal cemeteries are required to be available for residents, we have to maximize space based on needs of different groups. Also, take into consideration other options (religious cemeteries, All Faiths, Rural, etc.)

Brenda, third comment: is green burial something that would be considered?

Rob: yes, this will be something we will discuss to see if it works and how it would be implemented if it would work.

Tom: defining green burial: a true green burial is one that is without an outer burial container, many times without a rigid container. Preparation of body. Perhaps disposable casket with handles can work for a cemetery. Commonly limited memorialization, perhaps limited maintenance of aboveground.

Fr. M: can those be exhumed afterwards?

Tom: No, what would happen is there would be no removal disposition.

Spiro Giannopoulos: wants to know if existing gravesites could be made double-tiered.

Rob: we would need to take a look at that. We would need to see what is down below. It’s site-specific but we will discuss further.

Tom: based on existing policy and procedures, issue would be that when burial rights were purchased, it was placed at a certain depth. What would happen is that they would have to do a removal and city might need to consider fee structure.

Rob describes what the process is: if lot has not been used, or a side has not been used yet, there could be the opportunity to understand what is below. If it is in use with existing casket/structure, one or both would need to be removed, dug deeper, and then put back in. Permit and funeral director would be needed for that.

Spiro G: would that be an option?

Rob: we would consider it.

Spiro G: we would really love that to happen.

Fr M.: is it possible in the undeveloped area if it could be built up to accommodate double-depth caskets?

Rob: yes, that is possible.

Fr M: that would be one of our recommendations/requests.

Paul: how would you determine if a grave is suitable for double depth?

Rob: we would probably take samples

Paul: the plantings along Hope Ave were donated by us.

Fr M: for aesthetic of new development, we can make it blend it beautifully for that traditional area – we would be willing to partner with the cemetery with that. We would not mind contributing to that.

Next meeting will be December 14, 6:30pm in this room.

Let Rob know if you need postcards/email reminders sent.

Closing remark from Bill Wallace: thanks Rob for bringing us to this point, Dave and Tom for their input, thanks attendees for input in this very important conversation. Notes that Brenda is from the Friends of Hope Cemetery.

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