Cemetery association discusses revitalization

PARIS — The Paris Cemetery Co. met Monday to discuss ongoing revitalization efforts.

When the meeting opened, Kathy Brown resigned as the board vice president, while maintaining a position on the board, then departed the meeting. Secretary Patty Rhoades was asked to replace Brown as vice president and agreed to do so.

Discussion then turned to various maintenance issues, re-writing the existing cemetery deed, reviewing the existing records, which date back to the cemetery’s founding in the mid-1800s and promote public awareness.

The cemetery has been plagued with issues for approximately 15 years — the last member of the Paris Cemetery Association, the original governing board, died in 2009, and upkeep of the cemetery became too expensive and overwhelming for the volunteer caretaker. Rhoades has been leading efforts to reclaim the cemetery for approximately four years. The new Paris Cemetery Co. board formed in December, and since then, the volunteer board members have been clearing brush, cutting grass and trying to get a handle on the records.

President Ralph Speer noted some records have been lost — including a 1930s fire that wiped out records of those buried in the original cemetery — or mismanaged, so it was difficult to determine not only whom was interred where in the cemetery, but whether some unused plots have been sold.

“It was very poorly managed in the past,” he said.

Attorney Dennis Makel is helping the board, formed from those who own plots in the cemetery, seek nonprofit status and donated a brush hog rotary mower to the board during Monday’s meeting. Makel also accepted the re-written deed for the purposes of review.

Ralph Speer noted those documents in the board’s possession have been scanned. He added that just over $1,000 which was in the Paris Cemetery Association account has been successfully transferred to the cemetery company.

Board members have met with Supervisor Dale Handick to review the needs, including road maintenance, and discussed contacting the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to seek assistance with a sharp drop-off from the adjacent state road to a cemetery entrance. Through years of repaving the road and not making a cut for the entrance, there are several inches difference between the two surfaces, which may be difficult for smaller vehicles to navigate.

Board members also discussed ways to raise visibility of the cemetery’s needs, noting a Facebook page had been established and asking members to include information about the cemetery in church bulletins. Members also discussed soliciting donations for the erection of a flag pole. Rhoades expressed the hope that the pole could be up in time for Memorial Day, May 29, or perhaps Flag Day, June 14. It was estimated the cost of a flag pole will range between $700 and $1,100. Rhoades contacted David Duerr of Duerr Packaging for help in ordering and installing a flag pole. Donations may be made by mailing checks payable to the Paris Cemetery Co. to First Choice America, 3501 Main St., Weirton, WV 26062.

There was a brief discussion of whether a ceremony honoring veterans could be organized following the installation of a flag pole or other recognition honoring the veterans interred in the cemetery, which includes Medal of Honor recipient Uriah H. Brown, a member of the 30th Ohio Infantry Co. G, out of Columbus, Ohio, during the Civil War.

Members then discussed encouraging those who visited the cemetery on Memorial Day to clean off the grave of a veteran whose family is no longer in the area. Several board members are cleaning veterans’ graves or other “forgotten” graves and solar outdoor lights in red, white and blue are being installed.

Members also briefly discussed erecting signs at the cemetery entrances with the board’s updated rules and regulations.