May 13, 2022

Fairview Cemetery, An Allentown Dilemma

The condition of Fairview Cemetery has been in decline for decades.  It first caught my attention in 1997, when I began hunting for the grave of a young woman who died in 1918. 

By 1900, Fairview was Lehigh Valley's most prestigious cemetery.  It would become the final resting place of Allentown's most prominent citizens, including Harry Trexler, John Leh, Jack Mack and numerous others.  Despite my status as a dissident chronicler of local government and a critic of the local press,  my postings caught the attention of a previous editor at the Morning Call, whose own grandmother is buried at Fairview.  While the paper did a story on my efforts in 2008,  and I did manage to coordinate a meeting between management and some concerned citizens,  any benefit to the cemetery's condition was short lived.

Internet search engines have long arms. In the following years I would receive messages from various people upset about conditions at the cemetery.  A few years ago, Tyler Fatzinger became interested in the cemetery, and took it upon himself to start cleaning up certain areas. I suggested to Taylor that he start a facebook page, so that concerned citizens and distressed relatives might connect.  Once again the situation caught the paper's attention, and another story appeared in 2019.  Tyler Fatzinger was recently informed by the cemetery operator that he was trespassing, and must cease from his efforts to improve the cemetery.

Why would both the cemetery and city establishments reject help, and discourage shining a light on this situation? Orphan cemeteries are a problem across the country. An orphan cemetery is an old cemetery no longer affiliated with an active congregation or a funded organization.  These cemeteries are often large, with no concerned descendants or remaining funds.  While perpetual care may have been paid by family decades earlier,  those funds in current dollars are woefully short.

In Fairview's case, the current management operates a crematorium and also conducts new burials on the grounds. Funds from the previous management were supposedly not passed forward.  While the Trexler Trust maintains Harry Trexler's grave, and a few other plots are privately maintained,  there understandably is no desire to take responsibility for the entire sixty acre cemetery. The current operator provides minimal care to the cemetery,  with even less for those sections toward the back.  While the cemetery grass may only be cut twice a season,  that's still more care than a true "orphan cemetery" would receive.  Some of the new burials appear to be on old plots, owned by other families, but unused for many, many decades, and on former areas designated as pathways between those plots. There seems to be no regulatory oversight. Recently, both state senator Pat Browne and the Orloski Law firm have acted in behalf of the cemetery operator.

While family members may be exasperated by the neglect,  local government does not seem eager to adopt either the problem or the expense of Fairview Cemetery.

reprinted from June of 2021

ADDENDUM MAY 13, 2022: Tyler Fatzinger reminds us of Flag Day and other updates and news at his group page- Revive Fairview Cemetery

4 comments:

  1. What a shame. Years ago folks working off community service hours were permitted to maintain cemeteries.

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  2. As lehigh county executive I would have used green future funds to protect and preserve this land. This is not an allentown problem this is a Lehigh County problem.

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  3. The funeral industry attracts some unsavory characters. I tried to do some research into the location of past city leaders graves about ten years ago and found that the owner was unhelpful and oddly secretive. He claimed not to have records. Then I realized he was moving stones. Why would a cemetery move stones of past civic leaders?

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  4. anon@6:27: as I wrote in the post..."Some of the new burials appear to be on old plots, owned by other families, but unused for many, many decades, and on former areas designated as pathways between those plots."... like the people buried there, history is dead in Allentown, especially with essentially a whole new population/demographic.

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