Tuesday, June 2, 2020

June 2020 Update

As of today, 02 June 2020, work is progressing nicely at the Evangelical Protestant Cemetery. In March, 81 gravestones were marked for attention. Today there are 44 left to complete. Most of this work was accomplished over the last three weeks and will continue until complete!

Although the cemetery lawn presently looks fantastic, the lawn maintenance continues to be a challenge. So far, a lone volunteer from last year, Mike S. has mowed the lawn five times. This was done with his self-propelled walk-behind mower. Yes that number is correct; Five times! I helped mow the lawn twice; but, Mike S. is the dominent force behind this task. Please note: the cemetery is four acres in size with many gravestones. Mike S. estimates that it takes approximately 11 hours to accomplish this by himself.

Either before or after the lawn is mowed, the area around the gravestones need to be weed whacked to keep the cemetery groomed and looking great. Brian D., Mike W., and myself have all chipped-in on this adventure. Below are a couple of pics near the cemetery entrance.




A prominent lot, the Griesmann lot, had four small crescent shaped marble gravestones that had severely sunk into the earth. Only two inches of the gravestones were visible. Also the stones were scalped numerous times over the years with lawn mowers. Please note: this lot is a work in progress. Each grave present is known as a "Cradle Grave." This was a surprise. Rarely do you see this type of Victorian grave because either the "rails" get removed or sink so far into the earth that they are no longer visible. Next month's update will document the final product.




A small project that came out excellent was that of the gravestone for Johann Meyer, an eleven year-old child who passed away in 1868. His small gravestone tipped over and sunk into the earth. Using D2 Biological Solution, his gravestone should clean-up nicely.

 



On Memorial Day, a couple from the Sheehy-Palmer VFW Post stopped by the cemetery and removed all of the old and tattered flags for the veterans whom are buried in the cemetery. Each veteran received a new flag for his grave.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

April 2020 Update

Finally, the season for conservation is here! But, the Coronavirus has tipped everyday life upside down. At the moment work is not progressing as it should be regarding the restoration of the Evangelical Protestant Church Cemetery. Full-time work, work sequester, and other issues are prohibiting work for the moment.

Fortunately a solid game plan was made. Work will begin when it can. Previous to the outbreak of the Cornonavirus pandemic, the cemetery was walked and surveyed. Eighty-one gravestones were counted in the survey. That is the number of gravestones that need to be addressed this year. If this is accomplished, then the reclamation / restoration project will be complete.

Fortunately the vast majority of the gravestones that need attention are smaller stones and many of them are clustered near each other. This makes work easier since many stones can be worked on in one particular area without moving equipment and supplies all over the place. I am sure that there will be a pop-up stone here and there that needs attention.

This year we are lucky that there appears to be very little Winter damage to the stones. Also, no one has driven off the roadway and into the cemetery and damaged any gravestones this winter. Last Fall and Winter, two separate incidents occurred where knuckle-heads jumped the curb with their car and drove into the cemetery and damaged the same gravestone twice. The gravestone of Civil War veteran John Apply was hit twice and damaged both times. Last year his stone was repaired and it still looks great.

Maintenance of the lawn will most likely be an issue again. We already know that the Pastor/s who now own the former Evangelical church building and cemetery will not maintain the cemetery grounds. So cutting the lawn will most likely be done by volunteers again. Hopefully every is well rested! One such volunteer from last year, Mike, was given wild flower seeds to plant on the hilly areas of the cemetery. Hopefully these seeds take and beautiful wild flowers bloom. If this happens it should make those areas of the cemetery look great and also remove the need for maintaining the steep hills. The hope is that the flowers choke out the weeds. Time will tell.

During late March some gravestone restoration work was begun. Roughly ten small gravestones were raised out of the soil, cleaned, and leveled. Minor work needs to be done to finish these stones. Some pictures of this work before, during and after the work are below.





Friday, December 27, 2019

January 2020 Update

The New Year is just around the corner. Hopefully 2020 will be a better year for the Evangelical Protestant Cemetery. Obviously the restoration season is long over and fortunately the mowing season will not get into full swing until May.

Until now there has not been an update on the cemetery since September. The grounds were last mowed in mid-October. Just three weeks after the September mowing. And although the growing season was winding down at that point, the grass desperately needed mowing. The grass grows phenomenally fast.

As many readers know from earlier posts, the grass at the cemetery reached heights of over three feet in length. Most of the gravestones were completely obscured. It was dangerous to trek inside the tall grass. Low gravestones were unseen and a major tripping hazard. Low spots and ground hog holes also contributed to unseen dangers on the cemetery grounds.

The City of Albany was notified of the condition of the grounds in the cemetery. The City stated they would contact the property owner and demand that the grounds be cared for. Whatever attempt was made, failed. The City next stated that it would mow the grounds. The City reneged on its own statement. Most likely because it would not recoup its costs from the property owner. Typical.

Local news channels 10 and 13 broadcast stories about the conditions at the cemetery and after viewers saw the stories many volunteers came out and helped to return the cemetery back to the condition that it should always be in. The City stated that it will not let the cemetery become overgrown again. Time will tell if the City backpedals on its words, again.

During the warmer months of 2019 upwards of eighty plus gravestones were up-righted, leveled, cleaned, and repaired in various manners. When the grass grew to outrageous lengths it took almost one month to get the lawn back in shape. During this time, gravestone restoration practically ceased. So, the project was set back almost one month.

At the beginning of 2019 the plan was to finish the gravestone project. Unfortunately that did not happen. However 2020 should see the project finished. An estimation of forty grave markers are left in need of attention. Most of the tombstones are on the smaller side. It should be very feasible to complete the remaining gravestones this coming year.

For those who donated time, labor, and monetary funds to this effort, Thank You very much! This work would not be able to be completed without your help. We will need certain supplies to see this job to fruition in 2020. We are very close to the end. Supplies that will be needed in the Spring include top soil, crusher-run, stone dust, 80# bags of cement for fabricating new bases, and D2 Biological Solution. See you in the Spring!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

September Update

Recently, the Evangelical Protestant Church Cemetery was mowed and weed whacked, again, by three volunteers over a period of a few days. The grounds look great, again. Most of the work was done by one individual, Mike, with his push mower. The grass will continue to grow until early November. The cemetery will need to be mowed at least once more this year. Until a permanent solution is found for the upkeep of the cemetery, if you notice that the grass is in need of attention, empower yourself, volunteer, and help with the upkeep. When the grass is at a reasonable length, it is much easier to maintain. Please do not forget that the grass was over three feet tall in July when Travis took on the task of mowing the lawn. Permission is not needed to do the right thing. Be careful, have fun, and feel good afterward because you just did a great thing! Let's all try to keep the cemetery in great shape. Thank you

Monday, August 5, 2019

August Update


August Update

The ongoing saga of the Evangelical Protestant Church Cemetery is a long and winding road. And still there is no resolution to the grass dilemma at the cemetery. To recap the past events of this sad scenario please follow the timeline:

- The Evangelical Protestant Church was established in 1850 by German immigrants residing in Albany's South End. Land was purchased in 1853 for use as a cemetery.

- Many years ago the Evangelical Protestant church merged with a religious body which is now know as the United Church of Christ (UCC).

- The last Pastor at the South End church was Reverend John U. Miller. After Miller died in 2012, the church board decided to close and disband the church. Stewardship of both the church and the cemetery reverted to the UCC. Since 2012, the UCC desperately wanted to sell both properties.

-  In early August 2018, we noticed that the cemetery grass was getting very long.  The UCC was notified about the length of the grass. The UCC stated that it sold both the former Evangelical Protestant Church building and its accompanying cemetery to a religious based fellowship operated by Pastor Ronald Myles Jr. For a number of years Myles longed to buy the church and he finally purchased it.

- Within days of contacting the UCC about the length of the cemetery grass, we went to the cemetery to take photographs to document how tall the grass was. The intent was to make a complaint to the city about the lawn not being mowed. However when we arrived at the cemetery, the former landscaping contractor who had been hired by the UCC for a number of years to mow the property monthly was present and mowing the lawn. I asked, "what's going on?" The contractor responded that the UCC contacted him and asked him to mow the grass "one last time." We believe that the UCC did this to make sure that the lawn was in good shape even after the property was sold and now that the property was in the hands of another organization, the UCC is off the hook from a possible negligence claim. At this point, the grass issue was now a moot issue.

- In late August, a friend who has numerous ancestors buried in the cemetery contacted Pastor Myles and asked him what his plans were for the upkeep of the cemetery. Myles responded, absolutely none. The Pastor mentioned that he had to take possession of the cemetery if he wanted to purchase the church building. Both properties were sold as a package deal. The purchase was rumored to have been extremely inexpensive also.

- Throughout the remaining Summer and Fall of 2018, certain sections of the cemetery were weed whacked and mowed a few times by a couple of volunteers. But the vast majority of the cemetery remained un-mowed.



- Fast forward to June 2019. The grass is now waist high. Pastor Myles certainly kept his word that he has no intention for caring for the cemetery. Neighbors and other city residents are beginning to notice of the conditions at the cemetery. Complaints now started to pop  up on various venues of social media. Meanwhile, on June 10th, I took it upon myself to write an email to certain elected individuals and city officials about the worsening conditions at the cemetery.  The email is below.

Dear xx

This note is to inform all public and elected officials of the shameful condition of the grounds at the Evangelical Protestant Cemetery located in Albany on Krumkill Road and Bender Lane. The grass in the cemetery has not been mowed since August 2018. The grass in most areas of the cemetery is approaching three feet in height. This is unacceptable. The cemetery grounds are presently unkempt and uninviting. Numerous lot owners and families of loved ones whom are buried there are taking it upon themselves to mow and clear pathways to their family plots. 

The Evangelical Protestant burial grounds is likely the oldest cemetery within city limits with the land being purchased for use as a cemetery in 1853. Aside from thousands of former Albany citizens, the cemetery is the final resting place for numerous Civil War, World War I, World War II, and Korean War veterans. These former soldiers and their families deserve much more than this.

The deplorable condition of the cemetery grounds is dangerous. Low spots and rabbit holes in the ground are unseen due to the height of the grass. Low lying gravestones are also a tripping hazard. With the cemetery grounds appearing to be abandoned, this is inviting for vandals, illegal dumping, which has occurred there in the past, and other undesirable activities. 

The church building of the former Evangelical Protestant Church, located at 82 Clinton Street, in Albany and its accompanying cemetery, on Krumkill Road were both sold in July 2018 to Pastor Ronald Myles Jr. of the Healing from Heaven Friends Fellowship. Myles was contacted last year in the Fall about the height of the grass. He indicated that he has no plan to care for the cemetery whatsoever. Under City Code Regulation # 313-51.1, can the present owner of the cemetery be mandated to mow and keep the grounds in a more desirable condition? It is hoped that this dilemma can be rectified as soon as possible before conditions deteriorate further or an unfortunate incident occurs. 

Below are three avenues for contacting me on this matter. I shall be awaiting a response and for notice of what actions are unfolding on this situation.

- The email was sent to Jack Flynn, the Common Council seat for the 8th Ward. Flynn responded that he was passing this information on to Code Enforcement and the Department of General Services (DGS). Gary W. Domalowicz of the 10th Legislative District was sent the email. He did not respond. We are thinking that he was not interested in the cemetery. Please remember him and his lack of initiative when he is seeking your support. Joshua Gold, Senior Code Enforcement Officer, never responded to his email. And Molly McGuire, the Community Relations Coordinator in the Department of General Services also failed to respond. Does there appear to be to be a pattern of no action here?

- After a few days of no response from the Department of General Services, Ms McGuire was contacted and asked what is the status of the complaint. I was told that it was under review and that the property owner will need to be contacted and after five days of failing to comply with an order to get the grass mowed, the city would come in, mow the lawn, and charge and fine the property owner. I said fair enough. I will contact you in two weeks on this matter.

- Two weeks pass and instead of calling the DGS office I visited its office in person on July 2nd. I spoke with Ms McGuire and was told that the grass will be cut by the city. Excellent, I said. OK, now when will this occur? I asked. Not quite sure, but it will be scheduled and then done. Many people were extremely happy that the grass was finally going to be cut.

- On July 11th, Ms McGuire was called again and asked "when is the grass scheduled to be cut at the cemetery?" Now, her response was a volte-face. A complete turnaround. Now, I am told that the city may not be legally allowed to mow the lawn at the cemetery. However, do not think for one moment that they would not mow your unkempt lawn, charge you, and fine you. What probably happened is a DGS supervisor or foreman went out to the site and saw what they had on their hands. A complete disaster. Lots of work. Not an easy fix. Hmm, we need to back pedal on this. And the grass continues to grow. At this point the grass is so tall that it cannot support itself. It is beginning to fall over. Most of the grave markers are now completely hidden and obscured by the grass.

Where are the gravestones?
Hidden in three feet tall grass

-  On July 16th, I was contacted by reporter Anya Tucker from Channel 10 news and asked if I will do an interview at the cemetery on its present condition. Absolutely, yes! It is unknown to me where she got my contact information because I am not the person who contacted the news station. When I arrived at the cemetery Dan Levy from  Channel 13 news was already present. That day I gave interviews to both news reporters which were aired numerous times.

- Thankfully, a man from Corinth, Travis and his girlfriend Billie, either saw or heard of the conditions at the cemetery. On Monday July 22nd, he took it upon himself to drive over 50 miles to the cemetery and begin mowing the lawn. This was done in the pouring rain! Fortunately, Channel 13's Dan Levy stopped by the cemetery and did a story on Travis. Many saw this story and were touched by the kindness and big heart that Travis has. The next day at least six more people showed up to help Travis. The following day approximately 20 to 25 people showed up to help. Those being relatives of those buried there, people from Greene County, and Claverack in Columbia County. Two coaches and numerous football players from UAlbany team helped for a few hours.

- Travis got the ball rolling on the mowing project. Along with Travis others including Dan and Mike have been present almost every day since July 23rd either mowing, raking, and dragging cut grass. The media has brought this sad story to light and the those who follow the same mantra as myself as in "Do the Right Thing" have made extreme progress in reclaiming the cemetery from neglect. There is still quite a bit of work necessary. More weed whacking, mowing, raking, and grass removing is necessary. Travis and the others are going to see this through until it is finished.

- However, all who are following these developments need to remember that was has been accomplished so far is just temporary. The grass will continue to grow until early November. The grass can easily reach the same heights that it was two weeks ago if further maintenance is not done. Those who have volunteered and helped bring the cemetery back need to know that many people are extremely happy with your extreme dedication and generosity that has been exhibited during this process.

- More importantly; how can someone especially one who is supposed to be a Pastor allow the sacred and final resting spot of these former Albanians to be neglected to this extreme. You should be ashamed of yourself. Within the grounds of the cemetery there are hundreds of veterans buried there and the majority of them fought in the Civil War. Please explain to me Ronald, why can you not be contacted? Keep hiding, inside you know that you are wrong. Do the Right Thing!

- Regarding the city, we will wait and see what your "action plan" is. The volunteers have not let anyone "off the hook" from their responsibilities here. Below is a photo that if the grass reaches this height hopefully the so called action plan will be invoked.






Wednesday, July 10, 2019

July 2019 Update : Grass Situation

It is impossible not to notice the height of the grass at the Evangelical Protestant Cemetery on Krumkill Road. This is an ongoing saga which will hopefully come to an end soon. As mentioned in the June 2019 post, the new owner of the cemetery, Pastor Ronald Myles Jr. of the Healing from Heaven Friends Fellowship, stated last Fall that he has no intention of caring for or maintaining the cemetery. As of today, Myles speaks the truth. The grass is over three feet tall and he has done nothing to maintain the property. The pictures below were taken two weeks ago. The grass is presently much higher. Matter of fact, the grass is so high that it is now falling over.




Many people including lot owners, families of those buried there, and neighborhood residents are taking notice of the grass predicament. Numerous venues of social media have postings where people are fed up with the grass situation. In mid June, a letter was written to two elected officials and also two city officials about the grass quandary. On July 2nd, after a visit to the offices of the Department of General Services was undertaken, we were told that the city was going to mow the grass, charge and fine the owner. As of yesterday, July 9th, the grass is still three feet tall. After another reasonable amount of time has passed, if the grass is not mowed, another campaign with a different approach is set to begin.

Regarding Myles, for a man who is supposed to be a Pastor, in my humble opinion he has a serious lack of character. How does one think or believe that he can own a cemetery and not care for it? Pastor Myles please explain this to me. 

Sunday, June 9, 2019

June 2019 Update

Two more gravestones completed today. The weather is beautiful; almost too hot at times. The restoration of leaning, broken, and fallen gravestones began back in April with approximately one hundred stones needing attention. Today that number is now down to fifty-nine and that number will continue to drop as this project progresses.

All is going well with the cemetery project; however, there is a new dilemma unfolding presently. A question for you: have you driven through the cemetery lately? If you have, then you know the situation regarding the grass, if not, well, the grass is now about three feet high in length. Yes, that number is correct. The lawn has not been mowed since early August 2018. This is obviously putting a damper on the speed of the project. It is also forcing people to bring in their own mowers and weed whackers to knock down and remove the grass from their family plots. Do I need to say, "this is unacceptable!" Families should not have to do this, period!

A bit of background history on the Evangelical Protestant Church. In the 1920s, the Evangelical churches merged with another religious body that is now known as the United Church of Christ. When Reverend John U. Miller of Albany's South End Evangelical Protestant Church died in 2010; it was decided that the church would close. After this decision was made, the United Church of Christ desired to sell the former church building, the pastoral building, and its cemetery as a package deal.

Fast forward to July 2018. The United Church of Christ found a buyer for the properties in Pastor Ronald Myles Jr. and his Healing from Heaven Friends Fellowship. In September 2018, Pastor Myles was contacted regarding the height of the grass at the cemetery. Myles indicated that he only wanted to purchase the church building and not the cemetery; but, a contingency for the sale stated that he had to take all of the properties, including the cemetery. Myles then said that he has no plans to do anything with the cemetery including the care for it.

So, there we have it. An individual or a Fellowship church/congregation that intends to let the cemetery decay.

There is a plan in motion that will hopefully get Myles to at the least get the lawn mowed. Stay tuned...