Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fall Festival at Mount Moriah Cemetery

On a crisp, clear, and cool Saturday (Oct. 26, 2013), The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc.  (FOMMCI) held its 2013 Fall Festival/Family and Friends Day. There was frost on the grass across the cemetery when the Friends’ Board members  arrived. Our Second Annual “Family and Friends Day” is a way to thank and acknowledge the hundreds of volunteers who worked so hard this past year to help us keep the grass cut, clear the trash, whack the weeds, cut the trees. Our president wanted us not to work, but celebrate. Well, you can’t keep good people down. Sixty or so volunteers wanted to work, so we provided them with hand tools and let them work.

Early morning setup by (L to R) Ken, Bill, and Peggy
Dawn at Mount Moriah Cemetery
Various Board members showed up at dawn (sunrise pic) to set up the central gathering site (Section 200), so hot coffee would be waiting for the first busload of volunteers when they arrived. Treasurer Ken Smith and his wife Peggy, along with Vice President Bill Warwick took care of this as well as running lines to a generator to provide power.

Treasurer Ken Smith leading the charge of Drexel student volunteers
Contrary to peoples’ perception of a VP and Treasurer being starched-shirt types, Bill and Ken are the guys with the pickup trucks and the chainsaws – people who can always be counted on to haul things around while providing folks with outlet strips, weed-whackers, or anything else that may be needed! Being the Communications and Technology Board member, my day would entail (in addition to helping with setup) running around documenting the activities with my camera and interviewing people.

Temple U. documentarians
As always, the day presented us with a varied group of participants - people from all walks of life showed up for many different reasons. Everyone has his or her own personal reason for helping to save and restore Mount Moriah Cemetery. A group of Temple University film students recognized this and spent the day filming and doing interviews with the people involved. The kids enjoyed the pumpkin-painting table!


Several families came to find their ancestors’ graves, for which we were prepared with maps and laptop with database of burial records. Friends’ Board members Fred and Sue Facciolli ran the genealogy station. One of the services that Board members provide is physically helping visitors to find graves in the cemetery, if that is requested. Several such missions were accomplished, often by FOMMCI Board member Donna Morelli (who many people know as her Facebook persona “The Haunt of Mount Moriah”), who knows the site better than most.

Drexel students clearing hillside weeds from around graves
We had about sixty people show up to work from various organizations, among them: PowerCorpsPHL (Mayor's Office of Civic Engagement & Volunteer Service), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church), and Drexel University. Drexel sends its freshmen as part of its (required) Civic Engagement course. Students are able to decide where they want to volunteer their time and effort ; this busload of students chose Mount Moriah. We are immensely grateful for the work the Drexel students accomplished clearing the hillside brush and weeds in Section 15.

Askin mausoleum (Section 28) before and during excavation

Askin mausoleum after clearing!
Many volunteers working along with the LDS group tackled the Askin mausoleum and hillside in Section 28. As you can see from the photos above, the structure was not even visible prior to the day’s cleanup effort. Afterward – what a transformation! Everyone here today seemed driven to accomplish some good, and their efforts surely paid off. Our Board members and other volunteers set up and served hot food and drinks all day – we are grateful to KC, Dawn Dyer, and Jen O’Donnell for running the tables and keeping the lines moving.

Board member Sam Ricks leading "Congressional Medal of Honor" tour
Betsy Ross' grave
We coaxed the volunteer workers to take some breaks, and enjoy the tours provided by FOMMCI Board members Sam Ricks and Ed Snyder. Sam ran the lecture tour "Remembering our Congressional Medal of Honor Veterans" in the Naval Asylum Plot and provided information on Mount Moriah’s twenty-one Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. Ed provided an “Art and Architecture” tour, which included the 1855 gatehouse, the (Masonic) Circle of St. John, and Betsy Ross’ grave.

At day’s end, I was interviewed by the Temple University students who were making a documentary about the Friends’ involvement with Mount Moriah Cemetery. The last question went something like this: “Has your experience caring for this abandoned cemetery changed your view of how you want to be remembered after you die?” I wasn’t prepared for that one, but answered in all honesty: “I hope people care for my final resting place in the same way we are trying to do that at Mount Moriah. Its all about respect – respect for the person, respect  for that person’s memory.”

Board member Ed Snyder giving "Art and Architecture" tour (photo by Frank Rausch)
Paulette (L) and Donna (R) help locate graves
All in all, it was a fun, fulfilling, and enjoyable day. Thanks to all who came out to celebrate! In the words of FOMMCI President, Paulette Rhone, “Thank you all for joining us for our second Annual Family and Friends Fall Festival … More importantly, thank you for being a Friend of Mount Moriah … it was a great day to get to know each other….”

For more information on the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc., please visit us on Facebook and on our website.