Press-Republican

June 27, 2013

Money woes make graveyard upkeep difficult

By ALVIN REINER Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — WADHAMS — Like many small-town burial grounds, Riverside Cemetery is having financial difficulties.

“We only get $15 for dues and $200 for perpetual care,” Riverside Cemetery Association Treasurer Debi Sherman said. “We were audited by the state and told to keep the current prices. 

“We don’t sell very many lots.”

Though the cemetery has money in a CD, it can utilize only the interest, and rates are very low right now.

“What ends up happening is people die off and their children don’t live here anymore,” Sherman said. “The initial perpetual care really doesn’t take care of expenses.”

Wadhams is a hamlet in the Town of Westport, and Sherman is concerned that the cemetery and any remaining funds could be taken over by that municipality. With spending kept to a minimum these days, she doubts the town would be able to take care of it as well as the association does. 

“We want to increase awareness of our monetary problems,” association President Judy French said. “Though there are still some family members around, they may not be aware that it takes a lot more money and labor for the upkeep.”

GRAVESTONES UNEARTHED

The cemetery, founded in 1825 and located on Church Lane, is the final resting place of at least 87 veterans dating back to the War of 1812, including Gen. Luman Wadhams, who served in that war, and World War I Rear Admiral Albion Wadhams. 

Many people come to the spot as they research family genealogy. 

Last year, some buried stones were unearthed, discovered as others were repaired.

“I didn’t know what I was getting into when we started finding graves in the brush over the hill,” association Vice President Evelyn Brant said. 

“We have been cementing the bases and adding rods, which some people don’t like. 

“I’m hoping we can get volunteers to clean up the stones, as they are getting harder to read. The DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) has come to clean up some of them. 

“We are grateful to volunteers such as Lyman Davis.” 

‘TIME-CONSUMING JOB’

A work crew from Moriah Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility has also assisted with upkeep.

“People want to see the cemetery nice and tidy,” Brant said.

The association says glass and clay flower containers are not allowed.

There are other concerns, such as the burial of cremated remains — there is no protocol for that, association members said.

And while notification of burial is required, sometimes that doesn’t happen.

The state recognizes the effort that volunteers put into cemetery upkeep.

“The administration of not-for-profit cemetery corporations is a time-consuming, often thankless job,” wrote State Division of Cemeteries Richard Fishman in a letter to the Riverside Association. 

“We are grateful to you for accepting the responsibilities that go with operation and maintenance of this local cemetery.” 

To learn more about Riverside Cemetery or to make a donation, call Sherman at 962-4452. 

Email Alvin Reiner: rondackrambler@yahoo.com