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The average person regards cemeteries in a community as a matter to be seldom if ever mentioned. To overcome this tendency on the part of the public and enlist them in the good work of having their views and ideas broadened and coincide with the work and aims of the Association of American Cemetery Superintendents is a great object.
We can meet year after year and while we are gaining knowledge and experience in methods of conducting our cemeteries to the best interests of our several communities we do not feel that we have accomplished all that there is to do unless we can interest the public. How best to do this, then, is one of the ideals we have set forth to realize.
For one, I maintain that we each have to set a high standard, in fact one in advance of the community that we are respectively in and plan our work to that end.
Some writers on cemetery topics consider that a cemetery is like a professional man that it cannot with good taste advertise. Practical men realize that the newspaper of today is a great molder of public opinion. Now, as to localities situated like ours, where we have only a population of 4,000 to draw business from the conducting of the cemetery cannot be carried on in lines parallel to those where a population of one hundred times more furnishes business. There are some matters on which the work would be similar but in details only; the whole general plan is different. Now, as we are situated, the local papers are a great help to us; the newspaper man is glad for us to give him an item when we have in contemplation any improvements, he is glad to note the progress of the work, as well as to give us a write up when the work is completed. This on a scale more or less helps to bring us in touch with our people. Could we interest them to visit the cemetery semi-occasionally without waiting until they come out to bury one of their dear ones, and look around, ask questions, make suggestions and kindly criticism; also a word or two, if merited, to the Superintendent in praise would help alleviate his labors. There is no one as appreciative as he.
After an experience of more than twelve years the Superintendent begins to think he is a judge of human nature, but as in all other arts and sciences he finds that the longer he is in the business the less he gives himself credit for knowing, and were it not for the heart he has he would to some extent becomes a cynic; as time goes on he becomes, so to speak, of the place where the community has its sleeping dead, he feels a responsibility and almost personal interest in each family and to him it has become a sacred trust.
This is truer in a large sense in the smaller communities where the persons committed to his care are known by him. Now, can we judiciously advertise and if so, what is the best method? With some people price counts some, but we notice that the public are willing to pay good prices, provided they feel that they are receiving adequate service. We are of the opinion that our association can and is, doing more for the smaller cemeteries in proportion, of educational work in the right direction, than for the larger and older cemeteries, but we are all of us benefited.
One of our members once said that we ought to make our cemeteries look like parks, plant trees that would give a cheerful look and eliminate as much as possible all the old cypresses• and funereal looking trees once so prevalent in many of our cemeteries; this we know to a large extent has been done, but we cannot make the cemetery a place of gayety either.
We must do something to arouse the public, for it is their best interests, in these matters, that we are conserving; and our efforts should be reciprocated and aided by them.
Frequent reports of our meetings, both by the daily and local papers and a judicious distribution of the reports of our proceedings are doing much in the direction desired, but still for all that we fall short of the standard we set.
One member gloomily predicts that fifty years hence the public will want cremation and that earth burial will be a thing of the past. Now, this, to practical men, would be no argument; cremation has been already in vogue hundreds of years and has not as yet become the favorite mode, for the thought of lying to sleep under grassy mounds and following old Customs in this direction need not deter any of us from the belief that our mission is soon to end. While it is true that the public are seemingly more apathetic in this regard than in anything else, still we have hope that they will in due time realize our efforts are for the best of all concerned and that an orderly, well regulated and properly cared for cemetery reflects creditably on their judgment and community for so maintaining.
From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 17th Annual Convention
Held at Rochester, NY
September 8, 9 and 10, 1903