Union and West End Cemetery

The Union and West End Cemetery is located in center city Allentown. The main entrance is on 10th Street at 10th and Chew Streets. The cemetery is mantained by a dedicated group of volunteers. Ten board members (also volunteers) serve the cemetery association and manage the finances, make application for grants, solicit donations and participate in the maintenance of the cemetery.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

 

Spring Has Finally Arrived!

There is no doubt that spring has arrived, finally. The April showers were plentiful and the grass has been growing, green, beautiful, higher than expected. It was long awaited, then it was too much, too fast. But that is the way it always happens. You wait for it, you pray for it, and it seems to take forever before it appears, but then one day, there it is...spring! Blessed spring! We love it, we glory in it, but with spring comes rain, sunshine and more rain. The grass begins to grow and that is a signal that it is time to tune up the lawn cutting equipment, put new oil filters on the machines, put in new oil and get the equipment, such that it is, ready for another summer of grass cutting.

Invariably, it always gets a jump on us. The rains come, the grass grows and it is too wet to go into the cemetery and begin the seasonal process of cutting the grass. So we begin another grass cutting season, behind, trying to catch up, to get on top. It is always a struggle. So much grass, so little time. And, as I have stated before, you get the cemetery looking good and it only last for a week; one week and then it begins again. There never is time for a break. If you take a break, you fall behind. When you fall behind, it is much more difficult.

Twenty acres of grass. Well, perhaps a little less, after all, some of that space is taken up by tombstones. Tombstones are a necessary part of any cemetery, but do they have to be so close together? Do they have to be so big? Why are they out of alignment? It would be so much better if they were in a perfect row. How did they get so out of order? Oh, Yea!...The cemetery is 153 years old. Guess in that time frame stuff happens. Can you imagine how many times a particular plot has been cut again and again over the past 153 years? It boggles the mind. How many times was a stone accidentally bumped or nudged? Guess it is not so hard to figure out what happened to cause the stones to be out of alignment after all.

Then, of course, the cement drys out between the base of the stone and the upright portion and wind, time, gravity, vandalism; something causes the stone to topple. That stone becomes an obstacle in the otherwise passable row. This creates all kinds of problems and radical maneuvering with the riding lawn mower. And then, as noted, there is the eternal problem of vandalism. For some unexplained reason, vandals seem to delight in toppling stones. Perhaps for the shear joy of knowing that they created a problem for someone else. How dare they have more than I can acquire. Life is not fair so I will topple this stone to prove that I have power to do harm. If I can not have the good things that others have, I will destroy things that have meaning to them. Serves them right! Who knows what goes through their heads, what motivates them? It is so senseless, so damaging, so evasive, so destructive, so criminal.

Riding lawn mowers? Oh yes, for the most part we use riding lawn mowers to cut the cemetery. Push mowers are used only to trim and to cut areas that can not be gotten to by the larger riding mowers. But even with riding mowers, it is a difficult, time consuming task.

Then there is the trimming around the stones. This is accomplished by the tedious task of operating a weed whacker. For the most part this is left to the Allentown Community Correctional Center personnel that come into the cemetery every three weeks for three hours to assist us. There contribution is very much appreciated. In addition to weed whacking, the ACCC personnel muscle stones back up on their foundations and a few are put on lawn mowers to assist with areas that have not been adopted by a volunteer. It is a help, but it is not near enough. The cemetery association needs more help from volunteers like Bob Engler, that are willing to make a commitment and are willing to live by that commitment.

Speaking of volunteers...this is always a difficult subject; It has proven extremely difficult to find good, hard working volunteers to assist with the work of cutting grass and maintaining the cemetery. It is hard work, but rewarding work and there is always more to be done, but with an adequate supply of willing volunteers, the work would go much quicker and easier for all. Most of the cemetery directors have adopted a full section, consisting of 1.3 acres. There are a few other dedicated volunteers that show up more or less on a regular basis, but not near enough or often enough. As a result, some of the directors do more than 1.3 acres and spend many hours each and every week in the cemetery desperately trying to maintain and present the historical cemetery in a manner that is both respectful to the 20,000 dear souls that are interred there, but also to present to the general public, that passes daily, a cemetery that the citizens and neighbors surrounding the cemetery can be proud of.

Yes, it is a difficult task, but for the volunteers that devote their time and talents to the cemetery, it is a rewarding experience. Spend a little time in our cemetery, walk among the dead, and if it doesn't have a live changing effect on you, if you are not somehow changed by the experience, then there must be something wrong with you.

We need your help! Visit the cemetery and experience it for yourself. Then stop and consider, "If Not Me, Then Who?"



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