PITTSTON — Each grave tells a story.
From the Civil War veteran who died in 1881, to a wife and mother of six who died in 1981.
The Pittston Cemetery’s newest chapter was written Saturday morning as those hallowed grounds were rededicated in a spirit of patriotism just days before Veterans Day.
Over two weekends in September and October, a crew of about 100 volunteers, led by Greater Pittston Historical Society member Ron Faraday, cleaned up weeds, trees, vines, grass and downed limbs that had overtaken many parts of the cemetery. Faraday said over 700 hours were clocked during the massive cleanup project.
“The outpouring of interest and support for this project is a clear indication that the people of Greater Pittston do care about and are interested in learning about the history of their area,” Faraday said.
State Rep. Mike Carroll said the Pittston Cemetery is once again a tranquil and peaceful resting place.
“No longer hidden in plain sight, this cemetery, now lovingly reclaimed and rededicated, will provide an ongoing silent testimony on behalf of the nearly 10,000 area residents buried here.”
Despite the name, the graveyard is not owned by the Pittston City. It’s owned by the Pittston Cemetery Association, a group that has dwindled down to a small handful of members.
It was opened in the mid-1800s by members of the Odd Fellows Society and has veterans of the Civil War buried there. Plots are still available in the newer section, but the older section was in disarray.
Carroll said the graveyard is a reflection on each resident of Greater Pittston.
“The Pittston Cemetery’s tidiness reflects the very essence of who we are as a community,” Carroll said. “In a state of disrepair, our community lacks completeness. In it’s lovingly restored condition, this cemetery reflects a proud heritage and a proud citizenry in Greater Pittston. And it reflects the proud service of Pittston’s veterans.”
Faraday said the physical work in cleaning up the cemetery is practically complete. He said there a “Pauper’s Field” of the cemetery that still needs some work. Some tombstones have fallen over a cliff and need to be recovered.
“Although the summer is over and the lawn mowers and weed whackers have been put away, our job here at the Pittston Cemetery is not over,” Faraday told the crowd.
But the next big hurdle, he said, is organizing and computerizing the cemetery’s records. Some are on microfilm, some are on paper, and some are missing. He said a team of 20 volunteers is currently working on that project.
Commander Albert C. Seeman, commanding officer at Navy Operational Support Center in Avoca, said there was no better way to give back to the community and honor veterans.
“But it’s not a one-time proposition,” Seeman said. “We need to come together as a community and continue the hard work and make sure this cemetery never returns to to the status it was in.”
Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Thomas Burke applauded the sacrifices of the volunteers that helped restore the cemetery.
“Today, as we gather, we not only rededicate a cemetery, we rededicate ourselves,” Burke said. “The volunteers have given incredible amounts of time and sacrifice to honor the memory of those who have come before us.”