Apr 19, 2016

A Blog and a Cemetery

About ten years ago, I began searching for the grave of a young Jewish woman, who died around 1900. Among several Jewish cemeteries no longer in use, I searched Mt. Sinai, a small section of the sprawling Fairview Cemetery on Lehigh Street, just west of the 8th Street Bridge. The cemetery is the history of Allentown past, including the graves of Harry Trexler, John Leh, and Jack Mack. As one proceeded deeper into the cemetery, away from sight on Lehigh Street, conditions worsened. As is the case with many old cemeteries, fees paid for perpetual care, 100 years ago, were long gone. Complicating the situation, the current private operator wasn't particularly assessable. In addition to extended family members upset about conditions, the situation was compounded by his refusal, with few exceptions, to allow private upkeep. My early posts on the situation drew response and phone calls from people with no interest in local political blogs; They were just exasperated relatives, with a family member buried long ago at Fairview. After beginning a series of posts, and letters to the editor, I prevailed upon The Morning Call to write a story one year later. The Call's story appeared on August 11, 2008. Within two weeks, the cemetery operator agreed to a public meeting I had organized at a local church. Arrangements were made between the operator and several parties. As with several of Allentown's older cemeteries, the issue of maintenance will be ongoing. This would be a worthwhile project for City Hall.

5 comments:

Dave said...

My uncle Harold M*** worked at Fairview Cemetery for many years until he passed in 2012. I went out there a few days a month and the main issue was that it was just him and a few other men to upkeep the Cemetery, which is quite large. Some of our 19th century family members can be found there. I haven't been up there since my uncle stopped working there in the fall of 2011, his health was failing and he couldn't do the physical work any longer.

George Ruth said...

Perpetual care promises seems a bit like Social Security. No lockbox to ensure a steady stream or revenue. That said, communities should try to find, with leaders like MM, to ensure that the 'old' cemeteries do not fall into disrepair. With thousands in the Lehigh Valley on some form of public assistance one would think there is a good source of help with the added benefit of teaching working skills.

michael molovinsky said...

george@4:30, the orphan cemeteries are a problem everywhere with older communities. churches close, family members die out and move away. allentown has been struggling with the west end cemetery, between chew and liberty, 10th and 12th, for over 30 years. thanks for the compliment, but more and more, i'm limiting my involvement to this keyboard.

aTimeforChoosing1980 said...

Well MM, while many of us value this blog it has been nice to have your involved in local matters of all types. Those of us who cherish Allentown's past need an advocate. As an 'immigrant' to the valley, having come here in the early '70s I have grown to really love and appreciate those who made this the good community that it is. My tangential professional involvement with some quasi-public entities has forced me to avoid the activism I would otherwise have liked to participate in.

michael molovinsky said...

1980@10:22, thank you for the kind words. although, I would prefer at this point to stay behind the keyboard, I'm still compelled to venture out and annoy in person.