The 144-year-old East Union Memorial Cemetery just made a few new “friends.”
Former Manteca mayors Jack Snyder and Willie Weatherford along with former city councilman John Harris and other concerned citizens have met informally to see what assistance they could lend to the historic burial site.
Since 2008 East Union Memorial Cemetery (EUMC) has been operating on a very small budget and with help from volunteers. Newly-elected
“Our Superintendent of Grounds John Strouss has done a phenomenal job of maintaining the grounds, which are the resting place for many early pioneer families and civic leaders,” newly elected Board President Janice Zacharias said. “Donations from the community have always been an important part of meeting the day-to-day financial needs for recurring monthly costs,” such as electricity and insurance.
Over the years, nembers (plot owners) and Associate Members (families of souls resting at EUMC) have given gifts such as lawn mowers, gas, cash, and have volunteered time to the cemetery to keep things going. But there are important needs that have gone unmet. East Union Memorial Cemetery must now replace worn out grave-digging equipment, and upgrade items used during funeral services such as chairs, shade tents, etc.
This is where the newly formed “Friends of the Cemetery” hope they can help. The fundraising group is exploring ways to raise cash from the community to cover costs that are beyond normal operations at the cemetery.
“EUMC has not had any notable landscaping or building improvements in almost ten years,” said Zacharias. “We have a list of immediate needs, ideas for landscaping, and a ‘wish list’ of building improvements that include finding ways to honor our interred veterans, and creating a cremation garden to support the national fast-growing trend toward cremation rather than traditional burial.”
Former mayor Willie Weatherford said that, “These historic grounds are part of local history,” and that the “Friends of the Cemetery” will work to establish a fund that will be used to preserve this resting place well into the future. Dollars raised would be primarily be dedicated to equipment needs, improvement building projects, and landscaping costs such as the replacement of trees – items which are outside of normal business operations and NOT regular monthly expenses. The “Friends” will meet again in early August to review cemetery needs and brainstorm funding opportunities.
Founded in 1872, the earliest birth date at the cemetery belongs to John Bradley, born in the 1780s. His wooden marker is preserved in concrete. Local historian, the late Evelyn Prouty, noted in her book, ‘Manteca,’ that East Union Memorial Cemetery is the resting place for local pioneer families like the Salmon-Reynolds settlers, who arrived by wagon train in 1852. Other notable families included the Harelson’s, Carter’s, Borah’s, Fox’s, and Cowell’s. Her writings tell about John Bradley, who once served as a scout for General George A. Custer, and Cutler Salmon, who served in the Black Hawk War in the early 1830’s – both are buried at EUMC. Thirteen Civil War veterans — as well as countless other Veterans from WW1, WW2 and more recent campaigns— are also resting at EUMC. The “Father of Manteca” and first mayor, Joshua Cowell, is buried in his family plot, and Manteca’s first woman mayor, Trena Kelley, also has a monument at EUMC. Other notable persons include school board members, civic leaders and church pastors.
“East Union Memorial Cemetery has markers for early pioneers, founding fathers and beloved veterans,” said Suzanne Roberts-Clemens, board member of EUMC, “but every soul has a story and they all deserve our best effort to keep the promise of maintaining a beautiful resting site.”
Current efforts are underway to preserve burial records, which go back almost 150 years. Newly-elected Board Secretary Janet Fiore is applying her genealogy skills to the task of organizing cemetery records. With an eye to the future, she has taken on the monumental task of scanning all documents digitally before placing the originals into fire-proof storage cabinets. Janet is also working on updates to the plat map, which is the official document of grave locations. Individuals interested in working with Fiore on this recording project can reach her at 209.275.0265, or email@example.com.
Most excited about the possibility of help from “Friends of the Cemetery” is Gloria Stanley, Board Treasurer.
“We will take all the help we can get,” she said.
Stanley welcomes every dollar as she struggles to make the most of available funds.
“Every cash gift, donated service, or time from volunteers is appreciated,” she said, as these all make it easier to run the EUMC business operations on a daily basis. “I continue to be amazed at the generosity of the Manteca/Lathrop community.”
If you have questions or would like to help, please contact Zacharias at 209.603.7338, or Board Stanley at 209.480.1061. Volunteers and groups interested in working at the cemetery can reach John Strouss, Superintendent of Grounds, at 209.823.8533. Cash gifts to support EUMC may be mailed to P. O. Box 591, Manteca, CA 95336. General inquiries via email may be sent to: EUCemetery@mail.com.