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Farrow family opts to adopt East Union Cemetery
Retired Manteca businessman Paul Farrow, who just turned 91, stands next to the railing that he and his family installed at the East Union Cemetery in memory of his late wife, Norma. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

When the Farrows of Manteca lost a beloved member of their family, they turned to adoption.

It was not a person or a pet that they adopted. It’s the pioneer East Union Cemetery at Louise Avenue and Union Road.

If you happen to pass by the cemetery and see a woman watering the plants around the cemetery office or weed-eating around the grave sites, chances are that person is Paula Farrow Miller.

And if you happen to stop by and visit this resting place of the area’s early pioneers and you notice the neat garden anchored by a water fountain at the west end of the covered patio next to the cemetery office, think of Paul Farrow and his daughter Judy Dallance. The steel railing that borders the patio area is also his handiwork.

In case you notice the neatly painted benches with wooden slats along one end of the patio, thank the nonagenarian Paul Farrow for that one, too.

Evelyn Prouty, the volunteer fixture at the cemetery and director of the Manteca Historical Society and Museum, said the Farrow family has, in a way, “adopted” the cemetery since Paul Farrow’s wife, Norma, passed away two years ago. The husband and wife owned and operated the Farrow’s Bike in Manteca for many years before they decided to retire and sold the business “many years ago.”

Paul Farrow’s dedication to the historic cemetery is a testament to the love and devotion that he and his late wife shared.

“We were married 69 years, five months and 14 days,” said the retired businessman recently, recalling the number of years, down to the day, he and his late wife were married at the time she died two years ago.

It was around that time that Paul Farrow and his family started their “adoption” of the cemetery. He “put up” the patio railing “two summers ago.”

Then he “adopted” the benches that have seen better days and were missing some slats by first finishing them and then applying cream and green paint on them. Today, they look like new. In between weed-eating, watering the plants or tidying up the fountain garden and their beloved’s grave, Paul Farrow and his daughter Paula and Paula’s equally devoted husband Clyde, take a short respite by sitting in one of the benches which is just a few feet from Norma’s grave site near the railing.

Each member of the family has taken on various volunteer roles at the cemetery. Paula does her tasks twice a week like clockwork. Even when she had her knee surgeries - the first one in September and the second one in February - it wasn’t long before she was back at the cemetery with her weed-eater, said Prouty.

And, of course, where Paula is, her devoted husband is there, too.

“She does a lot of weed-eating around the headstones and pulling the weeds. I do a lot of edging along the roadway. And I help Bill (Good, Prouty’s husband and fellow cemetery volunteer) repair sprinkler whenever he needs help,” Clyde said.

The water fountain was donated by daughter Judy Dallance during her recent visit with relatives here in Manteca from New Jersey where she now lives with husband Robert, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel. Paul Farrow installed it and painted the trunks of the Italian cypress trees that serve as the garden’s backdrop. He and daughter Paula and son-in-law Clyde, a retired correctional officer, worked on the garden around it.

“They do a lot,” Prouty said of the many volunteer chores that the Farrows do at the cemetery.

“They (Prouty and Good) need all the help they can get. We try to keep the side where Norma is as much as we can. And then Paula goes across the other way by the gazebo when we get caught up pretty much on our side. Anything that we can do to make the place look better, that’s our goal,” Clyde said.