Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - May 28, 2010

At last, a cemetery to be proud of

Memorial Day services Monday at Pleasanton's Pioneer Cemetery offer all of us a chance to spend a special hour over the three-day holiday weekend remembering the hundreds of veterans buried there as well as the chance to "express our gratitude" (this year's theme) for the uniformed men and women from Pleasanton who are serving in harm's way in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf. The ceremony, which starts at 11 a.m., is conducted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6298 and American Legion Post 237 in cooperation with the city of Pleasanton.

Monday's service also offers the public a chance to spend some time touring the 120-year-old cemetery, which the city purchased in 2007 from the International Order of Oddfellows. It's become quite a different place since the Pleasanton Parks and Community Services Department invested time and money to cart away litter, repair broken benches and pavement, and spruce up the landscape. Members of the Rotary Club of Pleasanton also have spent time cleaning up and improving the looks of gravesites, including realigning monuments, leveling and adding dirt, bringing in surface rocks and generally making the graves more appealing to the public. Most noticeable is the improvement in the landscaping along the entrance to the cemetery on Sunol Boulevard, a marked change for the better to this highly visible gateway on the southwest side of Pleasanton.

This year, also take a look at the 400 new burial sites that have just now been completed to the west and north of the flagpole, where Monday's Memorial Day ceremonies will take place. The new plots will go on sale later this summer with Pleasanton residents who have their names on a reservation list to be offered first choice. Six months later, if gravesites are still available, those outside of Pleasanton will also have a chance to purchase plots. At $10,198 for a full-burial plot and $4,277 for a cremains plot, they're market rate in comparison with what other cemeteries charge but far more costly than the $600-$1,000 the I.O.O.F. was charging before it went bankrupt. They're also not as pricey as they sound since they're being offered as a two-for-one sale. The larger ones are full-size, double-deck plots, with one individual casket placed in a pre-installed cement vault lower in the ground and the second added on top when needed. The smaller cremains plots work the same. Also, the fee includes full burial services, all administrative costs and promised care and maintenance for at least 25 years.

Not long ago, the old cemetery was so unkempt that the late Mayor Ben Tarver refused to have his son-in-law buried there after he was killed in a Navy plane crash. Thanks to a citizens committee's successful effort to encourage the city to buy and restore the historic site, Pioneer is now one of only a few municipally owned cemeteries that serves as a tribute to those buried there as well as one others can now consider when the need comes.

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