The Sperry family plot at the historic East Union Cemetery literally stands above all of the grave stones at this burial place of many of the area’s pioneers.
It rises about two feet from the ground. That means every time the cemetery is mowed, whoever is doing the job has to get on top of the rectangular plot to cut the grass between and around several head stones of deceased members of the pioneer family.
But after this spring, volunteers like Evelyn Prouty and Bill Goode wont’ have to deal with that headache anymore. A volunteer work crew headed by Charlene Carroll from the Church of Latter-day Saints in Manteca on Northgate Drive will be out at the cemetery Saturday, April 28, to spruce up the roughly five-acre historic burial ground on the southwest corner of Louise Avenue and North Union Road.
Prouty said that to solve the problem with the Sperry plot, about three inches of the top soil will need to be removed “so we could put in bark” in its stead.
The Mormon volunteers will actually start the day by doing clean-up chores at the Manteca Historical Museum on West Yosemite Avenue. Once they get done at the museum, the 12 to 15 crew members will join others at the cemetery. In addition to cleaning up the grounds cutting weeds, the group may also paint the gazebo near the office, if the East Union High School JROTC volunteers run out of time and are unable to do that this Saturday when they will be there to help with the clean-up from 9 a.m. until noon.
The church group that will be volunteering at the cemetery on April 28 plans to conclude the day by having a barbecue there.
Since the State of California froze the bank accounts and suspended the business license of the East Union Cemetery Association due to alleged mismanagement by some of the members of the old cemetery board, concerned residents who did not want to see the historic resting place of area pioneers and movers and shakers turn into a weed patch stepped up to the plate either by volunteering time and effort or making donations to the effort. The non-profit Friends of the East Union Cemetery also was formed as a result, and has been instrumental in the ongoing maintenance of this historic place.
In addition to solving the problem with the Sperry plot, Prouty said some of the old head stones need to be “either raised or lowered.
“So much dirt has blown in since 1872,” covering some of the markers to the point you don’t’ see them until the mower blades hit them, she said.
Last year, the cemetery association was finally able to purchase a new mower, thanks to generous donations from the community. Prior to that, Prouty and Good either hauled their own mower to the cemetery, or used the old one that the cemetery has owned since the 1980s and has been repaired so many times to the point they are repairing repairs that have been done to it, Prouty said.
Anyone interested helping maintain the cemetery can volunteer to help clean it up, or make a donation either directly to the East Union Cemetery or to the Friends of the East Union Cemetery. Donations to either one can be sent to P.O. Box 591, Manteca, California 95336-1129.