Marketing a 19th century cemetery for families in the 21st century

Date Published: 
March, 2005
Original Author: 
Margaret A. Goralski & Dale J. Fiore
Evergreen Cemetery Association, New Haven, Connecticut
Original Publication: 
ICFM Magazine, March 2005

Communities evolve. Their economies experience boom and bust.
Immigration alters their demographics. Cemeteries must find ways to adapt while staying true to their mission to honor those who have gone before.

Evergreen Cemetery Association was founded in 1848, when New Haven, Connecticut, was on an upward spiral. Governors, industry magnates and Yale graduates were buried within its walls.

Evergreen Cemetery, like New Haven, was new and growing and pulsing with the vibrancy of business and industry and the escalating fortunes of the city's moguls. New Haven, like similar cities around the country, rose and fell with the tides of historic events.

Fallen soldiers of the Civil War—black and white, Northern and Southern—were brought to Evergreen to rest in peace. Over the years, the cemetery welcomed soldiers and sailors from 20th century wars and erected memorials to fallen firemen and policemen.

New Haven was changing, reflecting the new Middle America. Men and women who were important within the spheres of their own families, neighborhoods, churches and communities were remembered.

Evergreen continued to grow, filled with memorials placed in loving memory of fathers, husbands, sons, brothers, mothers, wives, daughters and sisters. Memorials to loved ones were smaller than in New Haven's heyday but no less important. Edward Bouché, the first black man to graduate from Yale, is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

In 1956, a crematory was built, adding a new dimension to the "cemetery" business. Evergreen now offered two services, both marketed to funeral directors. They were similar in some ways but different in others. Cremation was not the preservation of the body as we had known it.

Cremation meant human remains could be scattered in the wind or over the sea, or preserved in an urn kept on a mantle. But eventually, cremation families returned to memorialization at Evergreen in one form or another. It is easier to bring a grandchild to a place where they can look upon a stone or a memorial tree to discuss the people who have gone before them. Evergreen offers families scattering gardens, urns, niches and vases to decorate niches.

New Haven is more diverse than it used to be and therefore so is Evergreen Cemetery. We advertise in Spanish as well as English. We have memorials written in the languages of China and Japan.

Singing in many languages and flowers of many colors fill the cemetery. Our memorial stones have jazz saxophones, pictures of young men cut down in their prime and letters written in Spanish to a beloved family member.

Evergreen Cemetery is still as beautiful as when it was created in 1848, with flowers and trees that grace its park-like grounds. We have Canada geese and ducks; we have seagulls on some days and blackbirds on others. People walk, run and ride bikes in the cemetery.

We conduct our business with pride and purpose and, above all, dignity and respect for the dead that lie within these walls. We are the keepers of history. We are the voices of time.

Everything has changed and nothing has changed. We are marketing a cemetery and we are preserving the memory of loved ones and a community.