Wednesday, July 19, 2006

San Gabriel Valley Tribune - July 19, 2006

Here is the link to today's article in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune [The story contains a factual error--while there may be about 3,000 burials there, the cemetery has far fewer actual headstones. The 1847 burials are not marked and I don't know the date of the oldest headstone. That's probably a question that Jack, the caretaker, could answer.]

Saving Savannah
Historic status sought for Valley cemetery
By Fred Ortega Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - The Savannah Memorial Park's new board of directors is gearing up to preserve the 150-year-old cemetery that is the final resting place for many of the San Gabriel Valley's original white settlers.

The board's first order of business is to secure historic status for the cemetery and come up with the estimated $35,000 needed to maintain the graveyard each year, said President Eric Chase.

"The cemetery is nearly full and will not be generating a lot of income from the sale of plots in the future," said Chase, who will be the sixth generation of his family to be buried at the cemetery. "We need to come up with a Friends of the Savannah Cemetery type of group. ... Historic status does not translate into funding from the state."

The board is being welcomed by families who feared the cemetery might be converted into a park, resulting in the removal of most of the 3,000 grave markers, the oldest of which dates to 1847.

"I don't think that there was one person ... that wanted to see anything different done to the cemetery," said Anna Guess Pick, great-granddaughter of early area pioneer John Guess. "This new board is full of younger blood, which is good because there is so much that still needs to be done."

The board members - appointed on July 15 - represent the El Monte Cemetery Association, which has run the 19th century pioneer graveyard at 9263 Valley Blvd. in Rosemead since 1920. Each of the board members has ancestors buried at the cemetery, Chase said.

A historic designation would not result in any government funding for the cemetery. But it would provide official recognition that would make it easier for the association to apply for grants from private preservation groups such as the Getty Foundation, Pick said. Such grants could be used in conjunction with fundraisers organized by the board, Pick added. It costs $35,000 to keep the cemetery running each year, mostly to cover staff salaries, water and electricity bills, and landscaping and maintenance fees.

fred.ortega@sgvn.com
(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2306

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