Starting from zero
Couple taking on cemetery in Tyrone
A couple who owns a monument business and a gravestone-resetting practice have taken on the upkeep of Eastlawn Cemetery in Tyrone.
Steven and Maranda Snyder are getting ownership transferred from the family that has controlled the cemetery since 1908, and they plan to establish a nonprofit to manage and maintain the grounds and to restart burials there, they said.
They’re looking for volunteer maintenance help and donations to build up a maintenance care fund.
“We’re starting from zero,” Maranda Snyder said.
The members of the family that have been managing the cemetery were struggling, due to age and health, and were “looking for options” after Snyder Township levied a fine for high grass, Steven said.
“We said, ‘we’re here for you,'” he said.
The couple began caring for the grounds in June, bringing in five employees from the monument business. They weeded grass that was knee-high, Steven said.
Since the takeover, there has been a cremation burial, the couple said, noting burial plots are available.
The headstones at the cemetery, located not far from Epworth Manor, are generally in decent shape, Steven said.
The transfer of the property will be completed for $1, the couple said, adding they are acquiring the cemetery before it becomes “too far gone” — when reclaiming it would be harder.
The cemetery was originally founded as a for-profit business in association with a monument company, Steven said.
It later became a nonprofit, the Eastlawn Cemetery Association.
While the couple’s own monument business is for-profit, the Snyders divert a portion of revenue from each monument sale into their Save A Stone program, which they plan to register as a nonprofit. That program helps defray costs associated with the volunteer portion of their gravestone resetting practice — which also includes for-profit work under the monument company.
The Snyders have no plans to draw a salary from the cemetery nonprofit, they said.
People wishing to help can reach the couple at email@example.com or through the Friends of Eastlawn Cemetery Facebook page.
Several older cemeteries in the area have experienced maintenance struggles, including Fairview, Oak Ridge and Rose Hill in Altoona.
An advocate for the volunteers who have helped maintain such cemeteries appealed recently to City Council to allocate some money from the $39 million the city is receiving from the American Rescue Plan to support that effort.
“The amount of money we’re asking for is so minute,” said Dave Gardner, the representative.
Ideally, the city could set up “something permanent,” because the volunteer commitments may not last forever, Gardner said.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.