The Jacksonville Rural Cemetery Association has repaired and re-coated two of its arches. Al and Maysel Markham reinstalled the first arch this year; the second arch will be installed in the spring. (Submitted photo)
“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” Benjamin Franklin wrote in a 1789 letter to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Leroy.
One thing that is not certain, however, is how your resting place will be taken care of after you’re gone. Fortunately for those buried in the Jacksonville Rural Cemetery on Fenner Road, the cemetery association keeps up mowing and maintenance and has made much-needed improvements. Now the association is asking for the public’s help to continue those efforts.
“So far, we’re remaining self-sufficient,” said Maysel Markham, who sits on the cemetery association’s board of trustees.
But some cemetery associations hand financial responsibilities over to municipalities when their accounts run dry. The town of Lysander handles maintenance and lot sales for Chase Cemetery on Route 48.
“A lot of your rural cemeteries, that’s happening,” Markham said. “It’s forcing the town to take over, and it’s an extra burden on the taxpayers.”
New York state requires cemetery associations to set aside a portion of lot sales for a perpetual care fund, but it’s hard to stretch the dollars left over. According to Markham, who is also a member of the Baldwinsville Village Planning Board, said funding from a state grant has dried up. Maintenance is paid for through the sale of gravesites and plots, and the town of Lysander provides $3,333 per year, “which doesn’t even cover mowing the lawns,” Markham said.
Markham said cemetery associations require permission from the state to make significant improvements. In 2014, Jacksonville replaced its chapel roof to the tune of $7,950. This year, the association sent out the two scrolled arches bearing the cemetery’s name to be sandblasted and have the powder coating replaced. Restoration of the arches cost $2,300.
In addition to the monetary costs, volunteers have given their time and effort to the cemetery.
“I’ve always been a believer if you’re going to be a trustee of an organization, you’ve got to do some manual labor,” Markham said.
Maysel and his brother, Al Markham, volunteered to disassemble and reinstall the arches. The Markham brothers have already put the first arch back in place.
“The second one’s all refurbished and it’s going up in the spring,” Maysel Markham said.
Next on Jacksonville’s to-do list is replacing the wrought iron fence, which has been damaged by several car crashes over the years. Except for one driver who hit the fence in November, few of the culprits have been caught, so the cemetery association has to “eat the cost” of repairs, Markham said.
“The estimates have priced themselves out of sight,” Markham said of replacing the fence. “It’s not off-the-shelf stuff. They’ve got to build it.”
While the fence will be a large undertaking, the cemetery association’s spring plans include sprucing up the chapel. The small building serves as vault storage during the winter months when the ground is too hard for burials. Markham said the chapel needs replacement signage and a fresh coat of paint, and they’re looking for volunteers.
“Something like this would be a good Eagle Scout project,” he said.
Markham said many volunteers and service organizations focus their projects within the village of Baldwinsville, where they can impact a greater number of lives. Even then, older clubs such as Rotary and Kiwanis are trying to maintain their membership numbers and recruit younger people.
“Younger people have newer ideas,” Markham said. “You have to keep hammering on the younger generation that these things are important. … At some point, they have to step up.”
Choosing a gravesite or maintaining a burial ground may not be on the average young person’s radar, but Markham pointed out that everyone will need a final resting place eventually.
“It’s good for the millennial generation to get involved,” he said. “It’s not things they need now, but it’s things you’ll need in the future.”
To learn more about how to donate, volunteer or join the Jacksonville Rural Cemetery Association’s board of trustees, call Maysel Markham at (315) 857-5549.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.