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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Bill Pekarski: Day 157, Living life on my terms

Bill Pekarski:

Day 157, Living life on my terms.

I was reading an article in this week’s Endeavor News about the Eulalia Cemetery that overlooks the valley on the western side of Coudersport along Route 6. The cemetery’s board of directors last year put out a call for help due to a deepening financial crisis. The Endeavor story reports that many donations have been received, but directors are still in need of more revenue to maintain this historical final resting place and community treasure.

In the past, maintenance costs were largely covered through donations as well as interest on investments. With falling interest rates over recent years combined with a decrease in donations, the board of directors has been forced to dip into those holdings to cover financial needs. Without fresh funds, the Eulalia Cemetery will run out of money in less than three years.

For me the cemetery has just always been there. It is not something that most of us think about very often, even though we may drive by it every day.

When I used to ride the bus to school, I remember looking out at the tombs and gravestones as we rode by each morning and afternoon. I would marvel at the multitude of American flags that mark the graves of armed forces veterans each Memorial Day. So much of our local history is entombed there and maintaining it for future generations is of paramount importance.

It was nearly nine years ago that my friend and fellow firefighter Bruce Setzer was laid to rest on the hillside. He actually reserved his gravesite strategically where his spirit could still overlook the fire station where he dedicated so many years of service. I remember the day of his funeral. A bagpiper stood atop the stairs above Route 6 and played Amazing Grace in his honor. It is a cherished memory for all of us who were in attendance that day, and a fitting tribute to one of Coudersport’s finest.

Bruce is certainly not alone on that hillside. He is joined many of the first settlers who made Coudersport their home in the early 1800s. There are local political figures, doctors, and judges buried throughout the property as well as simple common folks. I am sure just about every person who reads my stories knows someone there.

Because the Eulalia Cemetery is non-denominational, people of all religious beliefs are buried within its borders. Upkeep of the property is quite an undertaking as the slope of the hill side presents many challenges. Aside from mowing the grass, trees and bushes have to be trimmed, stumps have to be removed and the access road has to be maintained just to name a few.

Moneys have been used to support many improvements including a mapping and section identification schematic that helps visitors to navigate and find their loved ones grave sites easier. Maps and information are available for visitors as well.

The board of directors for the cemetery is comprised of very dedicated townspeople. Some of them, like Secretary Donna Lehman, have been a part of the group for decades. Other board members include Steve Erway (president), Andy Dubots, Ilene Altenhein, Gary Gunzburger, Craig Taubert, Wick Furman and Dale Anderson.

Over recent years, many of those board members have voluntarily dug into their own pockets to help cover the financial needs. Maintenance person, Paul Keller, even took a reduction in pay to help stretch the meager account balance.

The Endeavor reports that an ambitious campaign has been launched in hopes of generating $500,000, which could help to stabilize the balance sheet and provide ongoing revenue through investment interest.

Today I am dedicating my progress to the Eulalia Cemetery and its board of directors. I hope they are able to realize their goals and continue their vital operation.

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