A memorial garden, arbors with climbing roses, decorative benches accented by flowering shrubs, and whitewashed picket fences are among the landscape improvements being planned for the historic East Union Cemetery in Manteca.
These were unveiled at the annual general membership meeting of the East Union Cemetery Association held this past weekend at the Manteca Historical Museum.
“The plan is to be ready when we can sell graves (again), decorate it a little bit so the cemetery will look nice,” said Evelyn Prouty, a member of the cemetery association and the director of the Manteca Historical Society and Museum which is spearheading efforts to preserve and maintain the burial ground of many of the area’s pioneers and community leaders located on the southwest corner of North Union Road and Louise Avenue.
Among the landscaping improvements that the cemetery association is planning to accomplish, hopefully with the help of willing hands and generous donors, is the creation of a memorial garden in the open grassy area just inside the archway on Union Road. The concrete archway was erected as a memorial to the area’s early pioneers whose names are engraved on both sides of the arch posts. Right in the middle of the archway is a gate that is never open since it has been moved, evidently for safety, farther down to the south of the property.
The grassy spot that used to be a walkway that was abandoned could be re-established as a walkway with concrete edges which could be sold as cremation plots. At least, that’s the plan. A “couple of rocks” would be placed on the inside of the arch where the gate is now with memorial plaques placed on each rock. On the inside of the arch would be the name, East Union Cemetery, which would identify it as such since it doesn’t say so on the front side of the archway facing the road.
“If you read (the inscription), it just says memorial to the pioneers; nowhere does it tell you it’s East Union Cemetery,” Prouty said.
Another plan is to develop the area in front of the office where the garbage containers used to be kept enclosed by a chain-link fence that was more of an eye sore and put up a columbarium there for cremations and featuring a columbarium walk. This work has actually been started, with the unsightly chain link fences removed. Plans are to include benches in this same area – there’s already one there - where visitors can sit down to rest. For added color, some flowering plants would be planted for accent.
An archway or something similar to it made out of latticework accented by white-washed picket fences is also planned for the west section of the cemetery. Climbing roses would be planted on either side of the latticework to cover the archway with flowers. More than just an aesthetic addition, this would be like an entrance to this part of the cemetery, Prouty said.
Another plan that is being contemplated farther into the future is a Memorial Garden to be located in one corner of the cemetery where ashes of loved ones may be scattered. Several cemeteries already have memorial gardens in place, some more elaborate and picturesque than others complete with waterfalls and other water features, Prouty said.
To get the above projects under way, the association is asking the public for help. Below is their Wish List for some of the above projects that they want to get started right away:
10 six-by-six posts, 10 feet long
12 two-by-sixes, 12 feet long
6 sections of picket fence, 34” by 36” by 8 feet
2 large white matching pots no more than 2 feet tall
Concrete (see us)
Someone to repair and mend 4 old wooden benches (These are the benches found under the awning on the side of the office.)
10 gallons of white exterior paint
For the Memorial Garden next to the archway, the following donations are needed: concrete and forms, granite tablet for names (replicating the ones on the memorial arch), and two large rocks big enough to hold tablets.
Anyone who wishes to help in the above efforts, either by monetary donations or physical volunteer work, call the cemetery office at 823-8533 or 982-0339.
The cemetery association is hoping to get its business license re-installed in August at the earliest, or October at the latest, this year. The cemetery’s license was revoked by the state when the old board failed to pay its business fees. Further complications that arose after that including the withdrawal of $140,000 from the cemetery’s endowment care fund to pay off loans and overdue bills, resulted in the state imposing a penalty of a year’s suspension during which time the cemetery is banned from selling burial plots. To get back into business, the association will need to re-apply for a new license at the end of that one year. The new board took the drastic action of taking money out of the endowment fund to prevent the association from further losing money. The loan that was taken out by the old board – reasons why they did that are still unclear – was to save the association $800 in interest payments alone for the loan.