Disclaimer: Until I read this story in the Connecticut Post a few weeks ago (I’d link to it, but it’s already been archived — you can try the cached version) explaining about a new state law that was supposed to go into effect on October 1st that would’ve allowed municipalities to take over abandoned cemeteries, it never even occurred to me that all cemeteries weren’t already owned by municipalities.
As it turns out, that story was not exactly right — when I started working on this post, I sent an e-mail about the law to Ruth Shapleigh-Brown of the Connecticut Gravestone Network asking about the impending law. She was kind enough to respond:
The law hasn’t passed yet.. but got combined into yet another bill.
It was needed for towns that have Cemetery Associations (not many do) to absorb the care of those otherwise abandoned burying grounds. One town has another approach and that is Sheila Godino in Ledyard, who runs an adopt a cemetery program.
I will attach the “last stated link to language for the bill”
It was incorporated into a large bill during the regular session which revised various public health statutes.
see sec.69 & also sec.1, 12, 13, 18, 19, 24, 39, 40
plain language summary from the Office of Legislative Research
It was extraordinarily nice of Ruth to respond to my query and attach the pertinent information. I tried to read through some of the statutes, but my eyes got sort of buggy on me. (I tend to leave that type of language to my wife, who is an attorney.) As Ruth says, the law hasn’t passed yet, and apparently it won’t effect every town in the state.
As I mentioned, I never really thought about who owned a cemetery. But as I look at it, it’s obvious that they are owned privately — I mean, you have to pay for a plot, right? Thus, they are money-making enterprises. Sure, you can be interred in one with people of a similar faith, but ultimately, like many religious organizations, they have to generate some sort of income to help pay for service and upkeep. Graves don’t dig themselves.
Anyway, as for the law, it seems like a good idea — it would allow local towns and cities to legally gain control of cemeteries whose owners have left the dead for dead (so to speak) so they can then move forward with preservation and upkeep.
During our trips out for this blog, we’ve found ourselves in numerous cemeteries around the state, and we’re always amazed at the stunning funerary art you can find — fantastic and beautiful sculpture, gorgeous cut stones, well manicured lawns and interesting architecture.
We’re not the only ones who appreciate the artistic efforts put into creating fitting memorials for the dearly departed. As you might expect, the aforementioned Connecticut Gravestone Network is dedicated (or is that dead-icated?) to the cause.
From the CGN website:
Connecticut Gravestone Network is dedicated to protecting Connecticut’s old burying grounds and preserving their historic significance. CGN provides a communication resource with an emphasis on promoting and encouraging public awareness and safe conservation. We also support those interested in all other aspects of gravestone studies.
They don’t say it, but I’d guess their motto would be “Gone, but not forgotten.”