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Festival of Lights adds funeral home open house

December 13, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

When Rest Haven Cemetery holds its 12th annual Festival of Lights Saturday, its newly opened 18,000-square-foot funeral home will welcome visitors to an open house.

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Staff members and about 150 volunteers will distribute and light some 8,700 luminaires at the cemetery.

A musician will play bagpipes on the grounds for an hour, beginning at 4:15 p.m. and members of the Christian Youth Fellowship at First Christian Church will collect nonperishable food for the Community Food Bank from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The funeral home will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and light refreshments will be served.

Last year, the event drew about 1,200 vehicles, Brown said.

Residents are invited to tour the grounds again this year. For some families, lighting luminaires at the grave of a deceased relative has become a tradition, according to Brown.

Like the Antietam Battlefield illumination, the event is a tribute. "It's a warm feeling," Brown said.

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The approximately $1 million funeral home was completed in April, but it could not be opened for business until it obtained the proper permits. The Maryland Board of Morticians granted the funeral home's director, Robert May, an establishment license Dec. 8.

The 12-member board originally denied the application. Board President John Chaplin said Monday that May did not have the necessary documents prepared on time.

May referred questions to the board Monday.

Rest Haven President Charles Brown built the funeral home to offer funeral services on site at the cemetery. He is not a mortician, so he hired May, a mortician from Greencastle, Pa., to operate the new facility.

Offices for both businesses are in the funeral home, which is atop a hill overlooking the cemetery. The building features a chapel, a lounge with a fireplace, a casket display room and embalming rooms on the lower level.

Brown decorated the lounge with old photographs of the Potomac Street high school and the old Valencia restaurant to evoke memories of another era. Donated local yearbooks on tables add nostalgia.

May got his mortician's license in Pennsylvania 18 years ago. He owned and operated an establishment he sold three years ago. He worked at Gasch Funeral Home in Hyattsville, Md., as an internship until he attained his Maryland license and became director.

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