Cemetery still damaged, overgrown since microburst storm last year

[anvplayer video=”5179781″ station=”998131″]

HONEOYE, N.Y. A storm tore through the Finger Lakes last June and we can still see the effects in a small, country cemetery that is overgrown and damaged.

News10NBC was alerted to the damage by a man who has five generations of family buried at Allens Hill Cemetery near Honeoye. When he saw the conditions over Memorial Day weekend, he called the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester and then called News10NBC to expose what he considers a problem. And like so many times before, when News10NBC starts to make calls, things start to change.

Ronald Griswold recorded a video of the cemetery, which shows the grass un-mowed, headstones toppled and brush and tree trunks piled up on the side. Allens Hill Cemetery is run by the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester.

Brean: “When you came and saw the cemetery in the shape it was in on the weekend, what did you think?”
Ronald Griswold, family buried at Allens Hill Cemetery: “I was angry. Real angry.”

Griswold took me to the resting place of his parents and brother.

“If this was White Haven Memorial Park or Mt. Hope, which I have family there as well, this would never stand,” he said.

The June 16, 2022, a storm crashed directly onto the cemetery. The diocese says it toppled 40 to 50 trees.

“Our first priority was to clear the neighbor’s driveway from the fallen trees blocking a safe exit from their home,” wrote Steve Richards, communications director at the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester. “We found a tree service that understood the urgency of the situation with the neighbors. The tree service only had time to remove the trees to provide an emergency exit. The cemetery cleanup was scheduled for later in the fall.”

The diocese says the service wasn’t available last fall to finish the work.
To protect the graves, large trucks aren’t allowed on the land.

But 24 hours after we contacted the Episcopal Diocese, a lawnmower was at the cemetery cutting the grass. Griswold took me to the spots that upset him the most.

“So this stone has been laying here for 20 to 25 years,” he said pointing to a toppled headstone.

He also took me to the grave site of Daniel Bissell, a soldier who was awarded by General George Washington. Bissell’s resting place borders an overgrown section of the cemetery that covers some headstones and a family plot. Griswold says families should lay people to rest with the confidence that the cemetery will be maintained.

“Come in and restore this cemetery,” Griswold said, pausing to collect his emotions. “People had lives. People that are resting in peace here, they had lives. They had a story to tell and I have to be the voice of these people because they can’t speak for themselves anymore.”

“We are continuing the cleanup now that the weather allows and according to the schedule of our tree service,” wrote Richards.

The New York State Association of Cemeteries says a report published in the 1990s found 66 percent of small cemeteries were underfunded. But because in this case the cemetery is affiliated with the church, the association says the church is responsible for the maintenance and repair.