A dad’s dying wish could be in jeopardy according to a local resident.
Rose Baranin’s dad wanted to be buried at a scenic, tree-lined location somewhere in New York, so she purchased his burial plot in St. Raymond’s Cemetery’s old section along Balcom Avenue and the Hutchinson River Parkway near Waterbury Avenue in the early 1990s.
But recently the Pelham Gardens resident has noticed a change in the grounds near her father’s gravesite at the 180-acre, two-section cemetery, which is responsible for providing nearly 4,000 burials each year.
More than 20 years later, Rose still visits her father’s gravesite frequently to stay close and connected to him.
During her weekly visits she has discovered that many stones are showing signs of damage and previously standing stones and sculptures have been removed from the section entirely.
“My memory isn’t that bad and I’m not imagining this – I know that there were stones here before,” said Baranin, as she pointed to a stretch of grass in the cemetery that used to be a row of gravestones.
She also observed that trees had been planted where gravestones, sculptures and monuments once stood. “Something isn’t right here,” she said.
After bringing her concerns to the cemetery staff’s attention, they offered some explanation. However, they could not explain the missing gravestones or their current whereabouts.
“Many of these stones, sculptures, monuments, plaques and tiles are over 100 years old,” a St. Raymond’s Cemetery worker said. “Add that to the fact that many of their foundations are not stable – that is one of the reasons for items in the cemetery being tilted.”
Most of the land the cemetery occupies was former marshland that was filled.
“This situation stems from the land as well, which dates back over 100 years and can’t hold heavy stones or monuments like it used to in the past,” the worker said. “To sum everything up – it’s a combination of natural elements, but to my knowledge, I don’t recall any stones being entirely removed.”
“This incident has never been brought to my attention,” said St. Raymond’s Cemetery management, referring to the missing stones. “The cemetery maintains all sections of the cemetery regularly, but since the land swells due to rain, snow and other factors of nature, there is only so much maintenance that can be done, and that more than likely explains the tilted stones.”
Rose hopes that she can continue to visit St. Raymond’s Cemetery and see her father’s gravestone in the same spot – untilted and untouched.
“Cemeteries are supposed to be religious, sacred grounds where families and friends can visit their lost loved ones,” Baranin said. “I just want to know that in five years, ten years, even 20 years that my father’s stone will still be here.”