Sunday, October 13, 2019

ALL CEMETERIES MATTER! Sadly, some in Ohio matter less because of their assigned status by the Ohio Cemetery Dispute Resolution Commission

Ohio's State Legislative Leaders and the Ohio Cemetery Dispute Resolution Commission (OCDRC) have long neglected to adopt an "All Cemeteries Matter"stance to better ensure adequate protection and preservation for ALL of Ohio's cemeteries.  
These bodies of authority have excluded thousands of Ohio's cemeteries that are among the Buckeye state's most historic yet vulnerable hallowed grounds. 
Classified as inactive, and therefore, deemed ineligible to be registered with the "OCDRC"- future problems are almost certain to mount for these cemeteries.  They suffer increased loss of identity, diminished importance in the community, and eroded public respect for those pioneers who came before us who were buried in them.  
Ohio's lawmakers purposely left little to no provisions for filing complaints against those responsible for the care of these "old graveyards."  Meanwhile, year after year they fall further into decay and obscurity.

"The Division does not register cemeteries that are family cemeteries and it doesn’t register cemeteries that have not had an interment during that last 25 years."  
 Family cemetery is defined as “a cemetery containing the human remains of persons, at least three-fourths of whom have a common ancestor or who are the spouse or adopted child of that common ancestor.” 
As we know, many of these cemeteries are hidden away; obscured by bushes, tall weeds and poisonous plants. Some are barely enclosed by rusty bent or broken iron fences.  They would be totally forgotten about if it were not for the few dedicated and caring people who know about them and persistently push to obtain permission, if necessary, to be granted access to visit them.  
After they photograph visible headstones and transcribe inscriptions, they share what they have learned - praying respect will be restored to the cemetery.  

Many of Ohio's burial grounds are viewed as pioneer cemeteries, with veteran burials
reaching back to the American Revolution.
  War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish American War, and WWI veteran markers often dot the landscape in these cemeteries.  Fortunately, some of the gravesites have the medallion flag holders. Local veterans groups place flags in them to honor their service and sacrifices for our freedom.  

Unfortunately, rather than being valued as the historic treasures that they are, too many communities have been unable to persuade voters to pass sufficient levies to sustain maintenance levels that are needed to properly preserve and protect them.  
  Residents often take an "us vs. them' attitude and feel the funds are better used for living people. So, stand alone five-year cemetery levies often fail. 
Townships need to offer continuing levies that include cemeteries along with fire, EMS, and police.  
Such a continuing levy would include all cemeteries whether active or not that a township maintains.  
Indeed, a powerfully positive point to consider when promoting passage!    
Thus, we are thankful to have the tombstone inscription transcriptions that were taken primarily during the time periods of the 1930s to the early 2000's beginning with the WPA workers creating cemetery plat maps listing known veterans and creating the corresonding registration cards during the decade of the 1930s in the Great Depression; to the Daughters of the American Revolution chapters reading tombstones in the 1950s.  Later, many county chapters of the Ohio Genealogical Society visited area cemeteries and copied gravestone inscriptions and epitaphs.  Afterward, publishing them as chapter projects. 
We are indebted to those concerned and dedicated volunteers and others who also published their listings of known burials.  
Most recently, those who post on free websites such as Find A Grave, BillionGraves, Rootsweb, and OhioGravestones have greatly expanded our ability to at least view a gravestone photo and learn more about the deceased and their lives.  
We thank and recognize all of these volunteers for their efforts preserving through written and published documentation at all of Ohio's cemeteries, 
If you are among this group you are our heroes! Thank you!
(Above photo)
August, 2014
A scene from the work session
at the Old Burying Ground 
in Greenfield, Ohio
Fast forward to 2017 - 2019 and HB168: 

"To: All House Members"
From: Rep Dick Stein
"RE: Co-Sponsor Request: Cemetery Restoration and Improvement Act"
Date: March 22, 2017

"I will soon be introducing legislation to establish a self-funding cemetery grant program and to codify recommendations brought forth by the Ohio Cemetery Law Task Force Report & Recommendation in 2014. This bill is similar to HB 395 introduced last GA by Representative Pelanda.
This bill’s primary purpose is to assure we honor and respect all those interred in over 2,400 not for profit cemeteries across Ohio.  Local government funds have shrunk in recent years putting more pressure on our administrators to find solutions for cemetery repairs and maintenance, as mandated by law. 
This bill provides much needed assistance in securing grants to specifically address our cemetery managers’ responsibilities to honor our deceased.  
It is through initial funding from the Ohio Department of Commerce that we setup an account for $100,000 as seed money to fund these grants for FY18. This seed money comes from existing funds set aside by the $2.50 burial permit fees collected by Commerce. Future replenishment of these funds will be provided by setting aside $1.00 of the $2.50 burial permit fee to continue funding these grants.
This concept is supported by the Ohio Township Association, the Ohio Cemetery Association, the Catholic Conference of Ohio, and Ohio’s Department of Commerce."
Thus, Ohio House Bill 168 is considered by many to be the most 'sweeping' cemetery law enacted in recent years. It was introduced in 2017 by Rep. Dick Stein, passed in 2018, and fully implemented in 2019.  
However, its provisions of awarding yearly cemetery grant funds, getting receivers in place for active cemeteries that have become orphaned by their owners, and getting those cemeteries re-registered, does not in any way apply to or impact inactive cemeteries, or those deemed to be family cemeteries in the state of Ohio.  
Ohio has numerous municipally owned and maintained inactive cemeteries.  Many who read this blog know that and have visited some of them. 
They matter!
A REMINDER for Active Registered Cemeteries:
Requests for cemetery grant funds need to be for reasons deemed as "Exceptional" by the OCDRC.:

"The only non-technical element of this amendment is the addition of the word “exceptional” to 4767.10 Administering the Cemetery Grant. In this context “exceptional” means what is determined to be outside “reasonable maintenance” by Commerce, for that cemetery.  The Dept. of Commerce needs a mechanism to weight/ assign priority to different types of repairs. We did not want to include specific language as to what is and is not to be eligible for Grant monies, as each cemetery and their financial situation differs. If no weighting element were included, cemeteries may request grant money for mowing, trash removal, or other contractual services that should be paid through their Preneed Trust Fund. From our discussions with Township Trustees, they need these Grant monies for those expensive one-off projects that happened, like storms tearing up trees."

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