Back to normal in New Orleans?

New Orleans puts on a show

 

Almost two years ago, we posted an article about the state of repairs to NOLA cemeteries post-Katrina. Some cemeteries, like Metairie, seemed to weather the storm just fine while other cemeteries in the outlying poorer areas weren’t so lucky.     

Five years after Katrina, news crews have returned to document the city’s slow but inevitable rise back to its feet. While the focus is rightfully on human survival and individual initiative over government red tape (also known as SBA disaster recovery loans) there are also cemetery volunteer efforts that shouldn’t be forgotten—specifically from Save Our Cemeteries.     

Save Our Cemeteries (SOC) is a New Orleans based organization dedicated to preserving and restoring these Louisiana historic sites. After Katrina hit, they posted a website updating the public on which cemeteries were being cleared and which sites still needed help. At this time, they continue to offer tours, lectures, and volunteer cleanup programs. Some of their previous efforts included cleaning up this long-neglected potters field.     

SOC’s fundraisers are also popular. How about the annual 5K Run Through History? There are few chances to race through a cemetery for a good cause and this is one of them. Those seeking something less sweaty can indulge in the All Saints Soiree—A Masked Ball and Silent Auction. All proceeds will go toward historic cemetery restoration efforts.     

So, does this mean that in the past five years things are finally returning to normal in this city? Well, maybe not completely, but each passing day seems to bring yet one more positive confirmation that NOLA is alive and well.     

Just as it was before Katrina, certain cemeteries were deemed off-limits because of crime. This has not changed. Recently, one bemused graveyard rabbit posted a reminder on his blog that tourists should not randomly wander in St. Louis 2 unless they want to part with their wallets and cameras.     

Corruption, beginning at $350 a pop, also seems to be roaring back in true Mardi Gras style. Last weekend The Times-Picayune reported that city employee Alma Gardner is accused of:     

Mishandling payments and improperly hiring at least one man, purporting to be her grandson, to dig graves in three publicly owned burial grounds. According to a the city’s municipal code, city employees cannot be involved in contracting or brokering gravedigging services, as [she] is accused of doing. The new testimonies suggest that Gardner, who has served as Interim superintendent of cemeteries since shortly after Hurricane Katrina, may have been a habitual offender.”     

Laissez les bon temps roulez  (again).

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Snapshots: William and Catherine Booth

William and Catherine Booth: Salvation Army Founders

 

Known for its thrift stores and Christmas time bell ringers, The Salvation Army is now located in over 120 countries and remains a symbol of help to those in need—specifically, displaced Pakistani families and closer to home, those still suffering from the after-effects of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina

Established almost 150 years ago by William and Catherine Booth, the organization originally focused on three “S” words; soup, soap, and salvation—things very much needed in London’s East End where it was based. Mid-to late 19th century London was the time for industrial expansion, growth, and development. To say that life was brutal would be an understatement for those unfortunate enough to fall between the economic cracks while living in the time of Jack the Ripper

The Booth’s emphasis on social help in one of the poorest areas of London eventually turned into the foundation of In Darkest England and The Way Out, a book comparing London unfavorably to other developing nations at the time. 

It’s doubtful the founders could have ever imagined just how far their small ministry would eventually reach. Service statistics for fiscal years 2007/2008, the years prior to the current Great Recession, show the Salvation Army helping over 29 million people, serving over 69 million hot meals, distributing over 21 million items of clothing, furniture, and gifts, and offering lodgings to over 10 million people. 

It will be interesting to see the numbers for fiscal years 2009/2010. 

William and Catherine Booth are buried in one of London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries, Abney Park, located at Stoke Newington High Street.

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Anne Frank’s marker at Bergen Belsen

Camp marker. Photo courtesy of Sabine Ludwig

 

A little while back, I received some interesting photos from a world-traveling photographer friend of mine, Sabine Ludwig, who decided to stay local for one of her more recent trips. I’m glad she did.  

The Bergen Belsen death camp is located in northwestern Germany and between 1943 and 1945, countless numbers of people died there from shooting, hunger, and disease. Bergen Belsen also holds the distinction of being the first camp entered, liberated, and documented by the Western allied forces.  

Photo courtesy of Sabine Ludwig

 

Probably the most famous inmate (although she certainly never anticipated this celebrity) was Anne Frank who hid with her family in a secret annex of rooms in her father’s office building in Amsterdam. The entrance to their living quarters was guarded by a bookcase.  

Betrayed by an unidentified informer to the local police, Anne and her family were arrested, split into male/female contingents and sent to separate concentration camps. Anne and her sister Margot were first at Auschwitz and eventually, transferred to Bergen Belsen.  

A few weeks before the camp was liberated in 1945, a typhus epidemic swept the camp.  

Anne did not survive.  

Her father, Otto Frank, did survive and attempted with mixed success, to publish Anne’s diary. It was only in the mid to late 1950s, after a Broadway play and a movie, did the book finally take off.  

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Scaring up cemetery funds part deux

Just as little something to consider when planning a Living Performance venue.

We received an email yesterday from the people organizing the Living Performance fundraiser at Saar Pioneer Cemetery (mentioned in Scaring up Cemetery Funds).  After four performances (two on a Saturday and two on a Sunday), enough money was raised to pay for both cemetery maintenance AND a book on the cemetery itself.  

So be careful. You may end up making more money than initially planned.

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Scaring up cemetery repair funds

Mary Anderson: Salvation Army Member

This past April, the Veterans Administration announced that it will, “use up to $4.4 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act program to repair and preserve historic monuments and memorials at VA-operated national cemeteries…” This is good news for our national cemeteries what about for everyone else? All too often, local cemeteries are forced to think more creatively in order to find sustainable sources of maintenance funds.

However, some of these ideas can be quite intriguing.

In 2009, Atlanta artist Cooper Sanchez held a one-day (or rather, one night) art show at the historic Oakland cemetery. This is just one of several lectures, shows, and walking tours frequently offered to help drum up community support. Not wanting to be left behind, Seattle’s Evergreen Washelli accepted submissions this past spring for up to six solo art shows to be held in its Columbarium. 

Some cemeteries simply combine volunteer green thumb talents with a love for local history. The next time you’re in your local library, check out the Fall, 2009 issue of Country Gardens. On page 30, Cemetery Survivors details how Jane Baber White rejuvenated the 26-acre Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia. Once a forgotten site filled with overgrown shrubs and weeds, the cemetery is now filled with an amazing variety of heritage roses (approximately 60 types) ranging from the old-fashioned, 19th century to the 1950s favorites.

Living History performance at Saar Pioneer Cemetery

Another popular way to raise both funds and community interest is with Living History performances. Last weekend at the Saar Pioneer Cemetery in Kent, Washington, the Book-It Theatre and Living Voices highlighted the lives of several fascinating pioneers buried there.

Of course, another option is to find grant funding. Seattle cemetery volunteers and historical societies are fortunate to have potential funding from organizations like Humanities Washington and 4Culture. Not located in Washington? No worries. Check out possible grants at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Sometimes, there really are piles of cold, hard cash lying around for someone to pick up. How about tapping into those unclaimed bank or trust accounts? We commented about this on our Facebook fan page a while back but it’s worthwhile mentioning again. Seems like an Allentown, PA cemetery received almost $28,000 from old trust accounts. That’s a tidy little sum. What kinds of old accounts is your state hanging onto?

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What was once a tremendous carving…

   

The San Francisco National Cemetery is located in the northern end of The Presidio and holds a large number of interesting headstones scattered in between the usual military-issue markers. Earlier this year, BTG profiled an immense Book of Life located near one of the roadways and almost impossible to miss.   

Dr. Clarence A. Treuholtz: 1876 - 1913

 

One marker that’s not quite so prominent but offers a poignancy all its own, is the half-destroyed memorial to 37-year old Dr. Clarence A. Treuholtz, a captain in the Army Medical Corp, who served at various Army posts in Alaska, New Mexico, and Arizona – specifically, Fort Apache, a post that later became the home of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1923.   

There are two particularly sad items of note about this headstone. The first is that while Dr. Treuholtz is buried here, his wife Elizabeth, is not. The second sad note is the blatant vandalism marking the spot.   

   

Once upon a time, this must have been a magnificent carving of an eagle perched on a rocky outcrop. Now, only a broken set of clawed stumps remain.   

 

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It’s a long road to Cooperstown

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Maria Frances Cooper: b. 1819 – d. 1898 (daughter of James Fenimore Cooper)

 

Every summer, a small village in upstate New York swells to several times its size as thousands of visitors descend upon it, eager to pay respects to their baseball heroes. Located approximately an hour half from the state capitol in Albany or five + driving hours from New York City, most agree that for baseball players and visitors alike, it’s a long road to Cooperstown.

It’s an even longer road in winter but the payoff comes in having the town practically to one’s self. The Hall of Fame, shops, and readily available parking are all there for the leisurely traveler willing to put up with the occasional icy sidewalks and snow drifts.

For the more scholarly-inclined, winter is a great time to visit the Cooper family plot at Christ Church where literary genius and Victorian churchyard cemetery gazing can be had with few interruptions.

Cooper family plot – southern side

 

At this time of year, the Christ Church grounds are well insulated with snow, except for the path from the old-fashioned vicarage through the Cooper family plot and to the church itself.       Continue reading

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