Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Nov
  • 3

Damage closes cemeteries

Posted By November 3, 2011 | 1:00 pm | Lead Story #1
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By William T. Clew

That was the reaction of more than one visitor who toured St. John’s Cemetery with Robert  V. Ackerman, diocesan director of cemeteries, this week.
Last weekend’s snowstorm broke branches, tore off limbs and even split some trees down the middle throughout the cemetery.
Of the 126 sections in the cemetery, only 15 were unscathed by the heavy snowstorm, according to Mr. Ackerman. Most of the trees still carried most of their leaves, many of them still green. The weight of more than a foot of heavy, wet snow was more than many of them could bear.
The ground was littered with debris from the storm. Some branches still hung by only a few wood fibers over graves and near roadways.
Until they can be removed, the cemetery is not safe for visitors, Mr. Ackerman said. Burials will continue, but burial services will be limited to the Mausoleum Chapel at the entrance to the cemetery. Members of the cemetery staff will take the remains to the grave, along with the funeral director and staff, but family and friends will not be able to accompany them until the cemetery is made safe.
That could take several more days, he said Wednesday. Meanwhile, families have the option of scheduling the burial rite in the Mausoleum Chapel or at a later date at the gravesite through their funeral director. Two other cemeteries in the 13-cemetery St. John Cemetery System also were closed after the storm because of downed trees and branches.They  are Gethsemane Cemetery in Athol, and Calvary Cemetery in Dudley. Specific information about when each cemetery will be open or which sections are open for burial can be obtained by contacting the St. John Cemetery Office, 260 Cambridge St., Worcester at 508-757-7415.
Mr. Ackerman said cemetery workers are clearing branches from areas throughout St. John’s Cemetery. They are piled along the roadways and, because the leaves on them still are green, they look like bushes.
Those branches still hanging from trees, in some cases 20 or more feet above ground, will be removed with heavy equipment such as bucket lifts. Mr. Ackerman said heavy equipment, including chippers to clear up the downed limbs, will be rented as soon as it is available. The cemetery staff will operate the equipment, he said.
In the Pieta section of St. John’s Cemetery, several expensive, decorative trees were destroyed. All the limbs were torn off a couple of trees, leaving only the trunks standing. The fallen branches landed on surrounding gravestones, but did not appear to have damaged them. Gravestones and monuments will be inspected for damage as the debris  is cleared, Mr. Ackerman said.
Mr. Ackerman said he has a full time staff of nine,  who are responsible for caring for all 13 cemeteries in the diocesan system. He said leaf clearing was beginning when the storm hit. He said the storm has set the clearing schedule back at least three weeks.