Tackling a grave issue

June 27th, 2015 1:29 am

First Posted: 8/29/2013

Some buried in the Pittston City Cemetery may not be resting in peace.

Weeds, trees, animals and downed limbs have overtaken parts of the cemetery, prompting Pittston native Ron Faraday to organize a massive cleanup.

“Mother Nature really took over,” said Faraday, who is also a member of the Greater Pittston Historical Society.

The first of three weekend-long events is set for Saturday, Sept. 7 and Sunday, Sept. 8.

“The deplorable condition of the Pittston City Cemetery was recently brought to our attention and we’ve decided to do all we can to get the cemetery back into shape,” Faraday said. “There are some graves that are literally in the woods. Animals have burrowed down right near some headstones.”

Despite the name, the graveyard is not owned by the Pittston City. It’s owned by the Pittston Cemetery Association, a group that has dwindled down to a small handful of members. It was opened in the 1880s by members of the Odd Fellows Society. Plots are still available in the newer section, but the older section is in disarray.

Marty Olson, of the Cemetery Association, has said the association has little money to provide upkeep in the cemetery. He said over the years the association’s investments to dwindle.

One caretaker just can’t handle the hilly 50-acre cemetery on the corner of Swallow and Vine streets, across from West Park, Faraday said.

In addition to manpower, lawn equipment is needed. Workers are asked to bring their weed wackers to use if they can. Also needed are chainsaws, lawn mowers, rakes and shovels.

Also, donations are being accepted for a cookout for the workers. Needed are hot dogs, hamburger buns, mustard, ketchup, chips, soda, bottled water, ice, napkins, paper plates, etc. Members of the nearby American Legion Post 477 are planning the cookout.

An arborist will have to be hired to aid in removing some trees, therefore donations are also being accepted. The cemetery association has agreed to provide $200 to the effort.

Pittston Councilmen Mike Lombardo and Joe McLean offered to provide city resources, including trucks and equipment.

McLean said the city will offer any help it can.

“This project is really growing legs,” McLean said. “It’ s all hands on deck community project.”

McLean said anyone who can’t physically volunteer but has equipment, such as rakes, clippers, loppers or wheelbarrows, they are able to donate can leave it out during Pittston’s weekly yard waste pickup and DPW crews will take it to the cleanup.

Lombardo says it’s about respect for the dead.

“We don’t want it to look like a jungle there,” he said. “When a group of community-minded people organize a project like this, of course we’ll help out.”

He said dump trucks and heavy equipment could be utilized and they will take any waste to the Greater Pittston Regional Compost Facility in Dupont.

Also, the Naval Reserve Station in Avoca has agreed to supply a work detail of 10 sailors and another detail in October and November if needed.

Commanding officer Albert Seeman said he’s happy to help.

“After the cleanup effort it would be great to see the cemetery re-opened or re-dedicated,” he said. “Especially on November 11 (Veteran’s Day).”

Also after the cleanup, the Historical Society hopes to provide walking tours of the cemetery with reenactors in costume.

“It’s really a city treasure,” Faraday said.

Some notable residents buried in the cemetery are World War I veteran Albert West, former Pittston Mayor John J. Allardyce, three victims of the Avondale mining disaster in Plymouth in 1869 and 15 victims of the Eagle Shaft Disaster in 1871.

Donations can be mailed to the Greater Pittston Historical Society, 131 Bear Creek Road, Dupont, PA, 18641-1933.

Anyone needed additional information can contact Faraday at 654-2037.