NORDONIA HILLS — When someone walks through the Northfield-Macedonia Cemetery around Memorial Day, geraniums they might see planted at some of the graves are thanks to the efforts of a group dating back to the 1890s.
"It’s been going on a lot of years," said Earl Kane, president of the Northfield-Macedonia Cemetery Association. "We try to make the cemetery beautiful for the people that have, you know, their relatives there. We want to be able to come and look and appreciate that someone’s taking care of their loved ones."
Kane said the association also had flowering trees planted in the cemetery last year.
"It’s the beautification of the cemetery," he said. "It gives the cemetery a little color, that sort of thing."
Kane has been president for about a decade and he and his wife Sharon, the association’s secretary, have been involved with the association for about twice as long, they said.
"My parents got me into it," said Sharon.
"My mother-in-law hooked me into it," said Earl. "It’s my wife that keeps me going."
The association’s primary job is tending to 118 endowed graves in the cemetery, he said.
"They pay a fee up front," said Earl. "It’s $125. It’s a one-time fee and then after that, we take care of their graves for them."
He said this includes planting geraniums every Memorial Day and weeding the graves three times a year.
Sharon said that for a long time, association members did the work.
"The ladies from practically back to the beginning of this organization, which was in the late 1800s, used to do the planting," she said. "Of course, they didn’t have that many graves. And in more recent years, before we were in the cemetery association, I would say maybe like 25 years ago, they started having the Boy Scouts help them plant."
But now, she said, landscapers are hired to do the planting and weeding work, with Stewart Landscaping in Sagamore Hills now contracted.
"They do a really nice job," said Sharon.
She said association members place small flags showing the landscapers which are the endowed graves and then members deliver the geraniums to the graves, but the actual planting and weeding has "just gotten to be too much."
"The group has gotten smaller," she said. "There’s only about seven of us now. That’s why it’s gotten a little difficult for us to do the work. Physically, we can’t do it anymore."
Earl and Sharon said the cemetery association did have one project outside the cemetery. Inside the Northfield Center Town Hall, two large quilts can be seen hanging on a wall. One was made by association members in 1899 while the association commissioned the other from a local quilting group and dedicated it in 2003. Both quilts are encased for their protection.
"That was one of our projects," said Earl. "We paid to have the cases made and put up."
But Earl said the days of the association handling its work at the cemetery are now likely numbered. For many years, the association received a good return on investment on the fund it built up through collection of the fees, but those days seem to be over. The geraniums coupled with the landscaping costs total around $3,500 per year, said Earl. He estimated the money will run out in about 10 years.
"When that’s all gone, I hate to say it but that’s pretty much going to be it," he said, adding he expects the association will try to work out an agreement to have the publicly-owned cemetery’s board of trustees take over the beautification efforts.
According to a pamphlet titled "History of the Northfield Macedonia Cemetery," written by Sharon’s mother Vivian Burns, a group of women formed the cemetery association in 1894 at the request of the "town fathers" to help beautify the cemetery, which dates back to the 1840s. Their efforts were funded through 25-cent member dues, 50 cents for honorary members, as well as through efforts like bake sales, suppers and ice cream socials. But this was not enough and in 1913, the cemetery began selling endowments to have those graves tended, including the planting of flowers at Memorial Day.
Earl said the cemetery association will continue doing what it has done for more than a century as long as it can.
"We’ll just keep plugging away, trying to keep everybody happy," he said.
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JeffSaunders_RP.