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Visitors savor serenity of historic Sewickley Cemetery

| Wednesday, June 13, 2012, 12:17 p.m.
The grave of Maj. John Franklin Gray of the 48th Tennessee Regiment is the only Confederate grave in Sewickley Cemetery. He was married to a Sewickley woman, and is buried in the Ker family plot.
Headstones line the area near the mausoleum at Sewickley Cemetery .Photo by Kristina Serafini

It's a quiet place to go. At times, visitors can hear birds singing, catch sight of a large hawk, deer, turkey, rabbit or squirrel and even learn a history lesson or the names of trees lining the paths.Many people in the Sewickley area — and even those from outside of the Village — have been enjoying walks through the Sewickley Cemetery for years. Ronnie Sines, office manager, and Scott Wendt III, board president, call the cemetery "someplace special" and "Sewickley's other park."But while they want to encourage people to visit, they also want to remind them to be respectful while they are enjoying the cemetery's beauty."We want them to remember that people's loved one's are buried here," Sines said Although she said most of those who bring their dogs to the cemetery have them on leashes and clean up after them, there are those who lack the consideration to do so. In addition, Sines said visitors also have to remember the cemetery is open only from dawn until dusk. If they are in the cemetery after that, the gate will lock behind them. If that happens, they must call the Sewickley Heights police to come and unlock the gate and let them out. There will be no penalty or fine. Last winter, the gate was rammed open by a car that caused $1,500 in damage. Sines and Wendt also want to remind people to obey the 20 miles-per-hour speed limit for the safety of visitors and cemetery crew and to not impede workers' efforts to clear the road of snow in the winter. The cemetery website, www.sewickleycemetery.com , soon will be updated to include all rules and regulations. Sines said most rules are just a matter of commonsense to keep the cemetery a nice place to visit."It's a peaceful place. There's no doubt about that," she said. Before going for their walk, Sines said visitors are welcome to stop at the office to pick up information and map for a self-guided tour of historic graves color-coded into three categories — the early years, the Civil War and river men and railroad men — created by Harton Semple, Sewickley Historical Society executive director.The early years include the grave of Lidia Fundenberg, 27, the first to be buried in the cemetery just before it opened 1860. Her child, whose grave is besides her, died two years after her. The cemetery now has more than 13,000 interments, and Sines said there still is a lot of room for more. Included in the river and railroad men category are Capt. John Anderson, who died in 1928 at 100 years old and was cousin to "Buffalo Bill" Cody, and Capt. Jehu Smith, who died in 1878 after building four identical houses that still stand on Peebles Street. Included in the Civil War category is the statue "Fame," which was sculpted in 1866 to show respect and homage to fallen soldiers. The original marble statue is located in the cemetery chapel. In its original location now stands a granite version of the statue placed there in 2005.Trees have been cleared away near the statue to allow a scenic view of the Sewickley Bridge and to allow those on the bridge to get a glimpse of the statue especially at night when it is lighted.Also included is the grave of Maj. John Gray in the 48th Tennessee Regiment, who died in 1904, is the only Confederate grave. He was married to a Sewickley woman and is buried in the Ker family plot. A Confederate flag flies near his grave at certain times of the year. Sines said at times, Semple, who donated metal markers for the graves to replace plastic ones, gives guided historical tours. He wrote the book, "History of the Sewickley Valley Found in Sewickley Cemetery" Walkers also might see four red posts, which stand where the Tuskegee airmen memorial will be placed. The memorial will feature the names of the airmen from Sewickley and western Pennsylvania. The memorial wall, on the front of the mausoleum, also is featured for those who have scattered ashes of loved ones and would like to have a place to memorialize that person with an inscription. Visitors also can learn a little about the environment, too, by picking up information and maps of 39 varieties of trees at the office. Brian Reisker, a Boy Scout with Troop 243, put together the tree information for his Eagle Scout project in 2005. Walkers also might find a surprise or two in addition to the trees, historical graves and memorials. For examples, a Starbucks' cup sits near one grave, which Sines said she found out is not litter but was placed there by family members as a kind of memorial for their loved one who died and loved the coffee there. For more information about the cemetery, call Sines at 412-741-4409 or e-mail office@sewickleycemetery.com .

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