Saluting the first Lakeville Cemetery champions
In the 1990s, when Lakeview Cemetery was a neglected mess, Patchogue Village historian Hans Henke trudged through the brambles and high grass, brushed off some of the headstones, and eventually took a complete inventory of each of the gravestones and markers, about 900. He also mowed the area, little by little, at times joined by volunteers, so that it was presentable. It was a bit disheartening when he arrived one morning to see 50 gravestones knocked over and a damaged monument from vandalism. He regularly had to skirt around the cardboard city of homeless in the back.
Steve Gill took over the stewardship in 2005 and raised money for the beautiful Lakeview Cemetery gates and archway, lighting for the grounds and the flagpole and, in 2006, helped form a group of volunteers, the Cemetery Restoration Committee, under the chamber’s Greater Patchogue Foundation.
Henke and Gill will be honored by the Cemetery Restoration Committee for their efforts on Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m. at 89 North Music Venue. Along with the honorees’ devotion to their community, music by Rorie Kelly, Jay Scott and more will uplift patrons. Tickets are $25 in advance, $35 at the door.
Lakeview Cemetery, a series of five interconnected resting places — including Union, Rice, Gerard and Old Episcopal cemeteries — over six acres, is now an honorable looking place for those buried here, thanks to Henke and Gill. The land began use as a cemetery in 1794.
In 2016, the Cemetery Restoration Committee resurrected again with a Dia de los Muertos celebration fundraiser.
Over 100 veterans are buried here, most from the Civil War, said Christopher Capobianco. One of the advancements made over the last couple of years are the 10 new headstones paid for by the Department of Veterans Affairs, he said.
“If you document the person, they will pay for it,” added Ralph Wright.
Brookhaven Town now maintains the landscaping, a monumental contribution. Wright conveyed a humorous aside when supervisor Ed Romaine attended a rededication of the Sailors Monument, an area that Gill took under his wing and completed with the iron gate. Paula Murphy and her crew of volunteers tended it.
“Ed looked around and shook his head when he saw how high the grass was,” Wright recalled. “About a week later, we got a call for us to have a meeting with the parks department.”
Now the grass is cut weekly. “They take care of removing branches, maintaining the trees and moving stones,” said Murphy.
“We got estimates from landscapers,” said Tom Ferb. “It’s about $50,000 worth of work.”
There are headstones that are flat on the ground, some broken in pieces. A crew from Alan E. Fricke Memorials Inc. comes in when tapped to shore up some of the headstones and repair them.
Capobianco pointed to Lynn Davis’s efforts regarding the VA’s involvement with the headstones; she has now inventoried every grave on paper, which will eventually be digitized, and also got Fricke Monument involved.
The historical significance at Lakeview warrants a PBS special. There is a slave child indentured to the Roe family buried here, as well as the headstone from 1809 of a Baptist minister who preached at a church on the grounds that went missing, then was returned. (It had to be reset and cleaned; that cost $2,000.) Women’s rights lecturer Elizabeth Oaks Smith, who was also an author and poet, is buried here, as well as the sailors who died tragically off Fire Island, where the Sailors Monument is placed.
There are some legal issues the group is trying to forge through; with five cemeteries, there are old ownership issues, which village attorney Brian Egan is wading through. Waite said they were hoping, along with the Episcopal Diocese, to see if the cemetery committee could set up a corporation.
The 89 North event will help pay for a new flagpole, about $2,000. Regrading and putting gravel on the carriage way will cost about $2,000. Additional lighting (it’s now on the west end) will cut down on vandalism. Expanding the water lines for a full sprinkler system and redoing the old carriage way and sidewalk are also on their wish list.
Last Saturday, 17 volunteers from BBS Architects, Landscape Architects and Engineers worked the grounds. “It’s a lot of raking leaves and picking up litter,” Murphy explained. Not surprisingly, a shed to store garden tools is also on their wish list.
For more information, visit patchogue.com/about-the-foundation or call 631-207-1000.
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