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Cemetery financial woes worsen
Tour on Veterans Day designed to generate support
Evelyn Prouty volunteers to keep the East Union Cemetery in shape including cutting the grass. - photo by Bulletin file photo
A “historic tour” of the old section of East Union Cemetery will be offered on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The purpose of the guided tour is more than two-fold. But the main reason is to raise critically needed money to keep the historic burial place open, continue its maintenance, and to try to meet all state requirements so that the cemetery association can start selling burial plots again after its business license was revoked a year ago last August.

Those taking the guided tour will be asked to make a donation to the cemetery. Visitors will learn who the veterans buried there are “and what wars they served in,” said Evelyn Prouty, the director of the Manteca Historical Museum and a member of the Friends of East Union Cemetery, who will be one of the tour guides.

Prouty is also the author of “Manteca: Selected Chapters from its History,” which is the definitive book about the Family City’s history to date. One of the chapters in the book – Chapter 3 – is on the history of East Union Cemetery. Her pioneer ancestors, including the one for whom Louise Avenue was named – are among those buried at the cemetery.

East Union Cemetery is the resting place of 12 Civil War veterans, as well as many veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam Conflict. The former scout to General Custer is also buried here.

There are, of course, many other interesting figures in the historic section of the cemetery such as Joshua Cowell, generally known as the Father of Manteca, and the man whose body was found at the San Francisco City Hall when it was being excavated. Many of the area’s pioneers, whose names are etched on the pillars of the cemetery archway on East Union Road, are also buried in the historic section which is the part where the head stones are located on the east side.

Prouty said about $2,000 will be needed for various things that the state requires for the cemetery to get back into business. There are still more than a dozen things that the cemetery is required to do which include a $50 use permit from the City of Manteca and preparing a new cemetery map that shows who and where people are buried.

“The mapping is the biggie,” Prouty said of the ongoing and anticipated expenses.

The state requires that the cemetery books be copied onto 16x30-inch paper and then bound. That is the specific size mandated by the state, and it could cost a lot of money, Prouty said.

In addition to the money needed for the state requirements, the cemetery also needs money to maintain its lights and water sprinklers. The utility bill, which covers these expenses, runs up to $500 a month. The Friends of the Cemetery does not have the money to pay for the November utilities because donations have not been coming in, Prouty said. November and December may be dark months at the cemetery if they don’t have the money to pay PG&E, she said.

The nonprofit association is hoping there will be enough money collected to pay for cemetery utilities. As for garbage fees, the city has given the cemetery an 18-month payment reprieve. That reprieve started about a year ago when the cemetery started having problems.

The cemetery association already has paid the $800 required license fee about eight months ago. It has also paid the $20 that the state required for the association to get back its certificate of operation.

When will the cemetery map be finished?

“I don’t know, unless somebody volunteers to do it. They would have to draw the cemetery in their computer, in a grid,” Prouty said.

“We kind of know where everybody is; we’re gaining on who is buried where,” but it’s still a big and challenging task for which they will happily welcome volunteers to help, she said.

The cemetery started having problems in June 2008 when the then-sitting board failed to pay its business license fee to the state. The suspension of the business license was also prompted by an investigation by the state which found that the old board had made what the state Cemetery and Funeral Bureau considered were illegal loans made on the cemetery’s endowment funds. The state then seized all of the cemetery’s endowment funds and bank accounts. State officials said those funds will be given back to the association once the cemetery meets all the mandated state requirements.

To make tax-exempt donations to the cemetery, send checks – made payable to the Friends of the East Union Cemetery – to East Union Cemetery, P.O. Box 591, Manteca, CA 95336. For further details, call the cemetery office at 823-8533.