Galena Cemetery — at the center of a legal dispute between the village of Galena and Berkshire Township — hasn’t been fully maintained since last year, according to at least one resident.
Residents of Galena say they have been mowing their own family plots in an effort to keep up with grounds maintenance. “Some people are taking care of their own block,” said Jane Jackson of Galena. “My whole family is buried there. No one is responsible for it. No one is taking care of it.”
Army retiree Dave Laslo moved back to his hometown of Galena after 18 years with the Army. “Jane is upset,” he said. “She has a right to be.”
Laslo spent his day Friday, mowing the tall grass of the cemetery with a push mower. “It’s just out of respect.”
“It has to start now to get it under control,” Laslo said about the tall grass. “It’s not about Memorial Day. There’s no honor to this; this is dishonor.”
As Laslo pushed his mower down the rows of headstones, he noticed the names of people he knew while growing up. “I mowed the grass of Jimmy Vance’s yard when I was 10 years old,” he said.
The last time the cemetery was fully mowed was last year. “Last year, a bunch (of people) worked on it in September,” said John Bland, vice president of the Galena Historical Society.
The Galena Historical Society has scheduled a mowing day for Saturday, May 28, in preparation for Memorial Day.
Bland said “there are 13 Civil War veterans buried down there” out of the 1,735 people buried in the cemetery.
The historical society is looking for volunteers to help mow and trim May 28. “We have seven or eight people so far for the group,” Bland said. “We’ll start at 9 a.m. Saturday morning May 28 or when the grass is dry.”
“The more hands you got the faster we get done,” he added.
Berkshire Township had owned and operated the cemetery for 183 years, but last March released ownership of it to the village of Galena, citing a state law.
The township cited a section of the Ohio Revised Code that states the village is responsible for care and upkeep of the cemetery since it’s located inside the village boundaries. Both the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office and the Ohio Auditor’s Office supported the township’s view in the matter.
Galena officials have said they do not have the resources to operate and maintain the cemetery. The cemetery is located on North Walnut Street inside village limits.
Galena filed a lawsuit against Berkshire Township over the cemetery ownership last September.
The dispute is set to go to trial Dec. 6 and 7 in Delaware County Common Pleas Court before Judge David Gormley.
Some Galena residents are upset that the matter hasn’t been resolved before now. “I’ve lost all respect for Judge Gormley,” Jackson said.
Bland estimates the cemetery property to be 2½ to three acres in size. He said he isn’t sure how long it will take to mow and trim the property. “We’re going to find out how long it takes to clean it up,” he said.
“People are going in, doing what they can,” Jackson said. “We want to get it all done for the first time this year.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.