The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 24, 2010


Green Cemetery gates open to all Carlisle residents

Residents may use the Wilson Memorial Chapel (upper left) on the Green Cemetery grounds at no charge to host burial services for a deceased family member. The chapel, donated by Captain H.W. Wilson in 1907, houses about 50 people. (Photo by Marjorie Johnson)

On a sunny day you will see people strolling through the grounds of the Green Cemetery or even having lunch together there on the grass. It may seem an unusual place to walk or meet with friends when there is so much open conservation land and community trails in Carlisle, but the cemetery has the advantage of being wetland free, having cultivated grass and highly maintained paths. That’s because the Green Cemetery is under the perpetually funded care of the Carlisle Department of Public Works (DPW).

Securing a plot in the Carlisle cemetery is relatively easy and quick, but unfortunately most people don’t plan ahead. Gary Davis, DPW Superintendent since 1986, says that unfortunately he is usually contacted after someone has already passed away. A family member will call his office (sometimes after the Town Clerk has handled the initial query), and then must select a plot in haste as they generally have many other details to handle. Furthermore, the Selectmen’s office must approve the request. If the proposed owner of the plot lives in Carlisle, the purchase can be handled quickly, but if the deceased was a former resident or has special circumstances requesting burial in Carlisle, the Town Administrator must research the request prior to submitting it for consideration by the Selectmen. Finally, the Town Clerk’s office records the sale and documents the owner of the lot.

“Sometimes I’ve been down here and sold a lot in five minutes,” says Davis. “Other times I’ve been down here a half hour, 40 minutes, then they go home and think about it or have another family member come down and look…it goes from one extreme to another.”

The town cemetery offers 2-, 3-, 4-, 6- and 8-grave lots. The cost is $200 per grave. So a person can pay as little as $200 or up to $1,600 to secure a gravesite. One casket or up to eight cremations are allowed per grave. Last year almost 50% of the burials were cremations. Davis said that in the past cremations were a small minority of interments, but the number has slowly increased in the last 20 years.

Visiting the cemetery

Residents coming to the cemetery for a site viewing with Davis, a visit to a specific gravesite, or just interested in a stroll, can park within the Bedford Road cemetery gates (open if the DPW is there) or on the side of the road going up to the nearby Banta-Davis fields. Davis does not recommend parking on Bedford Road. The sites currently available for purchase are located on the side of the cemetery bordering the Banta-Davis Land, where the town has several athletic fields.

“I’ve heard everything, from I want to be as far away from the baseball field as possible,” says Davis, “to a couple of requests to be as close to the baseball field as possible.” According to Davis, the closest field is of Little League dimensions and, therefore, wild balls never reach the cemetery. Davis relays other questions he hears from purchasers of grave sites: “Which way does the sun come up? Is there anything close to a tree? Close to a stone wall?”

“The stone wall went first,” recalls Davis. “All the lots along the stone wall and pretty much along the tree line were the first thing to go. Then some people want to be under a tree and that’s getting difficult now because we only have these trees [pointing to some large, fully-grown trees] donated by the Garden Club when we opened this section.” The cemetery no longer has room for larger grave monuments such as a mausoleum. All the remaining grave sites are plotted out, and the town only allows one headstone per lot with as many individual flat markers as necessary, according to Davis. He added that whoever holds the deed to a lot can bury whomever they want there so that owners of a deed to lots in older parts of the cemetery with remaining space can still bury their dead there. That’s why sometimes burials take place in older parts of the cemetery for the recently deceased even though new sites are only sold in one specific area at present.

Once the sites in the current cemetery – over half full – have been sold, the DPW will extend the cemetery in the back, away from Bedford Road. The grounds crew will clear some trees and push the tree line all the way to the stone wall. Davis says that his department has already planned out the plot sizes and layout of the new area. No immediate plans exist to expand the cemetery.

Interior view of the Wilson Memorial Chapel. (Photo by Anne Marie Brako)

Beyond the stone wall is visible the area where plots are available for sale.
(Photo by Anne Marie Brako)

Finalizing a purchase

The Carlisle Town Accountant equally divides the $200 plot fee between two accounts. The first covers the sale of the lot, and covers personnel involvement at Town Hall (public works, Town Clerk, Town Administrator and treasurer departments) as well as paperwork filing costs. The other $100 goes into a perpetual care account of which the DPW only uses the interest on the principal sum. The interest covers all the work that the town does to maintain the cemetery land including regular mowing, tree work and planting and weeding of common areas.

People who purchase a grave site must ultimately also work with a monument company, in consultation with the DPW. Davis notes that military markers are the one exception which his department puts in. “If you have a six- or eight- grave lot, you can put in a five-foot wide headstone,” explains Davis. “But on a two-grave lot, it’s only going to be seven-feet wide, so you cannot take up the whole space with a headstone.” He explains that families can put “plantings around the actual headstones in an area that won’t interfere with the grave.” Davis adds that individuals cannot install trees or plants that will overgrow the boundaries of a lot.

Unusual modern markers include several stone benches used as headstones that also have flat individual markers for family members. One family is investigating using a flat round rock of fieldstone to allow for seating as a grave marker. A beautiful bench appeared near a stone wall, and Davis chose to leave it on the grounds as it doesn’t interfere with any of the grave sites. Another wooden bench, also left anonymously and allowed to stay, has since decayed over the years and Davis says his personnel will have to remove it soon as it has become unsightly.

Davis grew up in Carlisle, and relates that his grandparents and father are buried in Green Cemetery. Nonetheless, he admits, he personally still doesn’t own a lot. ∆

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