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Dig this: Adopt-a-Plot at EU Cemetery

Effort underway to enlist volunteers

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Dig this: Adopt-a-Plot at EU Cemetery

Evelyn Prouty is among the volunteers helping to maintain the East Union Cemetery.

Bulletin file photo/


POSTED June 17, 2009 3:39 a.m.
Earlier this year, Friends of the East Union Cemetery was formed to help save the historic burial place from disrepair.

Now, the cemetery association has come up with another avenue for members of the community to help maintain the burial ground of many of the area’s pioneers, veterans from the Civil War to the present war on terrorism, and other historic figures.

It’s called Adopt-a-Plot. The idea is based on the many similarly structured volunteer opportunities to clean up a highway, rescue an endangered animal, cheer up a soldier overseas, or expand a library’s reading-material collection.

Evelyn Prouty, a cemetery volunteer and a member of the cemetery association, said there are about 30 family plots that could use the help of willing hands to maintain them. These are the older burial plots with raised head stones in varying shapes and sizes too close together which make mowing difficult, if not impossible, so one has to use a weed eater to maintain the grass. These plots are also delineated by concrete edges which are like hurdles for a mower. One can always run the mower through these concrete protrusions on the ground but in so doing there’s always the potential of ruining the machine, Prouty said.

At least one family plot is elevated several inches above the ground. This definitely requires a weed eater to maintain the grass, Prouty said.

Many of those buried in these old plots no longer have families around to take care of them, she said. Adopting these plots and maintaining them regularly would make a good project for an individual, a business, a service club or perhaps even a family, Prouty said. She said the cemetery association could also provide some information about the family that’s buried in a particular plot to make the project more interesting to the volunteers. In so doing, the volunteers will also learn something about the history of their community.

In the months following the suspension of the cemetery association’s business license and seizure of its endowment care funds by the state Cemetery and Funeral Bureau due to alleged illegal fiscal problems that occurred under the watch of the old board, a handful of concerned people in Manteca, Lathrop and surrounding areas have stepped up to the plate to save the historic cemetery. With its coffers empty, maintenance of the cemetery had fallen mainly on the goodness of the hearts of willing volunteers. Prouty and her husband Bill Good, who is the current president of the cemetery board, have taken it upon themselves to be at the cemetery practically every day of the week doing chores that run the gamut – mowing the grass, weed eating, picking up litter that included dozens of golf balls, maintaining burial records, creating a gazebo and sitting area complete with flowering plants, and even digging graves and setting up graveside services – with the help of a handful of dedicated volunteers.

It takes two people working three straight days to mow the entire cemetery area, Prouty said. Weed-eating, removing dried flowers and other items left on the grave sites, and getting rid of litter are what make the job longer and harder, she said.

Anyone interested in signing up for the Adopt-a-Plot program is asked to call either Prouty or Good at 823-8533. Prouty said volunteers will need to make that phone call and sign up for the plot that they will adopt. They don’t have to weed-eat every week; they will probably need to do that only every other week, she added.

Since the cemetery association is still under business suspension by the state, cash donations are always welcome. Donations may be sent to the nonprofit Friends of East Union Cemetery at P.O. Box 591, Manteca, CA 95336 with checks made payable to the Friends of the East Union Cemetery. Donations are tax deductible.

In kind donations such as gas cards to help with the operation of the mowers and weed eaters are also welcome. Volunteer mowers and weed eaters can also help by bringing their own cleaning equipment and gas to operate them.

While the cemetery is technically a business, it is still run by the cemetery association, which means every family with a member buried there is part of the organization. In the strictest sense, all families are members of the association and must be involved in maintaining the cemetery.

Anyone interested in knowing more about the cemetery can pick up a copy of Evelyn Prouty’s book, “Manteca: Selected Chapters From its History” at the Manteca Historical Museum, 600 W. Yosemite Avenue. The cost is $20.

East Union Cemetery is located on the southwest corner of Louise Avenue and North Union Road.
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