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Volunteers make a difference at Berkeley Springs cemetery

July 15, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - When Berkeley Springs resident Irene Hedrick got a look at the poor condition of Greenway Cemetery when family members were buried there, she said she had to do something about it.

Hedrick is a Bath Town Council member (town recorder) and chairs the Cemetery Committee. She is also the president of the board of directors of the Town of Bath Cemetery Management and Maintenance Inc., a nonprofit organization.

Hedrick said the oldest grave in the historical cemetery dates to 1843.

She has always liked cemeteries and has visited many, and they are peaceful, she said.

Now that family members rest at Greenway, it's personal that this cemetery, which has been plagued by vandalism, be maintained, she said.

Not only does car racing go on through the narrow roads, but trash - including beer, wine and soda bottles and cans - is scattered on the graves. Worse yet, grave stones have been destroyed.

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Since the corporation formed and spent time cleaning up the grounds, things have improved, she said.

The corporation paid for half of the cost of a survey that is necessary for the Town of Bath to annex the cemetery, Hedrick said. If annexation is approved, it would come under town jurisdiction and be patrolled by the town police. Hopefully, vandalism would be curtailed, she said.

The Morgan County Commission will vote on the annexation Aug. 8.

Maude Lawyer, the vice president of the cemetery committee, and Janet Sheets, a committee director, focus on keeping the cemetery records updated and help raise funds to continue with the improvements, Hedrick said.

Ralph Rice, a director, helps with obtaining and planting trees and shrubs for the cemetery.

"He has excellent ideas about the maintenance of the grounds," Hedrick said.

Larry Davis, the board secretary, oversees the workers who mow the grass, and he repairs and keeps the equipment working. His wife, Dorita, volunteers her time and works with her husband to repair and widen the damaged culverts.

Traci Barker, a new board member, is helping update records and is working with the local historical society.

One of the first improvements was to repair the mausoleum that entombs about 80 people, Hedrick said.

"The mausoleum was in very bad shape," she said.

Concrete was falling off and two crypt end doors were broken and had to be replaced.

Local residents Leonard Stohl and his brothers volunteered and repaired about 40 gravestones, Larry Davis said.

"The quality of his work was exceptional," he said.

"He saved the cemetery a lot of money," Dorita Davis said.

About 300 people contributed toward cemetery improvements, Hedrick said, and last fall a meditation area was built by the Davises. A 10-foot-by-15-foot red brick floor was laid that includes memorial bricks with the names of loved ones.

Two 18-inch high, red brick sitting areas are on the back. In the center of the sitting areas is a 2-foot-tall angel that stands on its own 18-inch high sitting area.

Donated shrubs and trees were placed next to the area.

"More people want to participate in projects," Hedrick said. "People say they are appreciative of the improvements and repair work."

"It's getting better," Hedrick said. "But we need more help."

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