About 25 Galena-area residents gathered at the village’s administration building on July 12 to establish a formal, nonprofit organization to care for Galena Cemetery.
Berkshire Township had owned and operated the cemetery for 183 years, but in March 2015 released ownership of it to the village of Galena, citing state law. Galena filed a lawsuit against Berkshire Township over the cemetery ownership last September. Village officials have said they do not have the resources to operate and maintain the cemetery. The village also says the township has funds that were paid for burial plots, has all cemetery records and is responsible for cemetery operations and maintenance.
The suit is on Delaware County Common Pleas Judge David Gormley’s docket but not until early December.
Until then, community volunteers have been maintaining the cemetery as best they can. One of the volunteers that helped mow the cemetery while it has been in limbo, Tom Paul, chaired the July 12 meeting, along with Jane Jackson and Enid Horn sitting at the dais.
“It’s impressive to me to see how this village operates,” Paul said. “The Saturday before Memorial Day, members of this community saw a need and they did whatever it took to get our cemetery ready for the holiday. Some volunteers came with lawnmowers that cost $3,000, some with mowers that cost $300, and some lawnmowers that cost $3, but they all mowed and by the end of the day the cemetery look beautiful.”
Paul said everyone has seen the cemetery fall into disrepair, and to stabilize care of the property an impromptu panel was assembled to find a way to care for the cemetery until the legal case is decided.
Paul said the panel decided the care of the cemetery should fall under the umbrella of a 501(c)(3) corporation, Friends and Family of Galena Cemetery, a nonprofit foundation. He said Galena attorney Ken Molnar would handle the foundation application process for free.
“Donations would go into a bank account, and any money collected will be used for the cemetery,” Paul said. “First and foremost is mowing the grass. What we’re trying to do is standardize the mowing as needed.”
Paul said the The Grounds Guys of Westerville, a firm that helped mow the cemetery for Memorial Day, has offered to mow the cemetery at a reduced price.
“They offered to mow and trim the cemetery for $248, about one third of what other commercial mowers would charge,” Paul said. “Mowing the cemetery for a year would be about $3,000. That’s a very good price. We don’t want any of the volunteers that we’ve had to date think they’re not appreciated, but if we could just get coordinated we’ll get through this.”
Clay Snyder of DeVore Snyder Funeral Home has already donated $500, Paul said, and another $250 was donated last week.
“The thing we have to do is get the word out,” Paul said. “It’s like a baby left on the doorstep and no one’s home. We would like to form a membership to help take care of our 180-year-old piece of property.”
Paul said after the 501(c)(3) corporation is filed with the state, a full board would oversee its operations, and any checks paid out would have to be signed by two board members.
Paul said once the case is decided, left-over funds could be used for cemetery beautification projects, and possibly even maintained as a Galena Cemetery continuing endowment.
“We’ve all come here tonight to decide on a very peaceful way to handle this,” Paul said. “Others can fight the war, the courts can decide the outcome, and then it will be over. Our primary goal is not to be political in any way. Our goal is to take care of our honored dead and improve the beauty of our cemetery while it’s in our care.”
For more information, call Jackson at 740-965-2060; or Paul at 740-804-2274 (cellphone) or 740-965-4401 (home).
Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093. Email: [email protected]