The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

November 24, 2013

Congregation appeals for help to maintain historic cemetery

JOHNSTOWN — Hundreds of immigrants and their families packed Hungarian Reformed Church services in Cambria City and Windber generations ago.

Today, many of them are laid to rest in the church’s rural Richland Township cemetery, in numbers that far surpass the dozen now filling pews at their twice-monthly Chestnut Street services, the church’s pastor says.

 Now, it has reached the point where even the Cambria City church’s $400 annual cost to maintain its dead’s final resting place threatens its dwindling congregation’s survival – a dilemma that prompted church members to write to the Richland Township’s supervisors this month to see if they would consider taking the graveyard off their hands.

“We are having financial shortages and cannot adequately maintain our church,” the Rev. Albert Kovacs wrote.

“We feel a sense of responsibility to that cemetery – to the people that helped the church grow. But we’re under a dozen members now,” said Kovacs, 84, a long-retired pastor who continues delivering sermons at the church twice monthly. “There could be a time very soon where there will be no one left in this church to be responsible for it.”

It’s a request longtime Richland Supervisor Melvin Wingard called “a first” in his

46 years with the township.

But it’s also one that deserves careful consideration, he said.

The Hungarian Reformed Church was given the land for $1 by the Wilmore Coal Co. in 1919. Kovacs said the church is proposing to hand over the deed to the acre-plus graveyard.

Tucked nearly 50 yards behind Cemetery Drive outside Windber, the cemetery’s entrance is marked by two small brick pillars.

About 120 gravestones, many from the 1920s and 1930s, are scattered on the lot, divided by two flags – one the Stars and Stripes, and the other a faded and tattered Hungarian flag.

Kovacs said its been at least five years since someone was buried in the lot.

A few headstones are inscribed in weathered Hungarian lettering. More than a handful of the burial sites hold markers honoring World War I and World War II veterans.

Richland Township is home to numerous cemeteries, but none is township-owned, Wingard said.

“Would we have to dig graves?” Supervisor Gary Paul asked during the Nov. 18 meeting.

Wingard, a longtime Richland Cemetery Association board member, said the township would have to contract with someone for gravedigging services. Township crews or an outside landscaper could perform upkeep the property, he said.

“It’s an unusual request,” Supervisor Wayne Langerholc added. “On the one hand, the township really shouldn’t be in the business of being caretakers for a cemetery. But these are people who no doubt played a part in the growth of this community.

“I think we have a duty to give this careful consideration,” he added.

Kovacs said he understands it is an  unusual request. But these are unusual times, he said.

“The last thing we want to do is abandon this cemetery,” he added, hopeful the township or a local civic or veterans group might have a solution. “Hopefully, we can figure something out.”

David Hurst covers Richland Township for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ tddavidhurst.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Halfway house inmates can ease back into society

    Prison life can be a time warp.
    When inmates are locked away – for months, years, decades – society moves forward: Technology evolves, major events occur, pop culture changes. From a personal perspective, families and friends live their lives: weddings, funerals, graduations, births, retirements. All the while, criminals bide their time, existing in a regimented world of cement walls and metal bars.
    Almost all of them eventually rejoin society, though.

    April 19, 2014

  • Crime board took aim at house

    Johnstown’s unemployment rate is around 8 percent.
    One-third of the city’s population lives in poverty.
    Burglaries and assaults significantly increased between 2010 and 2012. There is a thriving illegal trade in heroin and prescription drugs.
    Given those conditions, it can be challenging for Johnstown Community Corrections Center residents to find jobs when living in the facility or to avoid falling back into a criminal lifestyle upon their release.

    April 19, 2014

  • Homicides linked to center

    Three homicides that took place in Johnstown last year involved either a suspect or victim who previously resided in the Community Corrections Center.
    Police Chief Craig Foust confirmed the name of one victim, who spent almost two months in the facility on Washington Street during 2007, a time period verified by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

    April 19, 2014

  • bachota Volunteers helping to spruce up community

    Walls and ceilings inside the Cambria County Library look clean and bright with fresh new coats of paint on them.
    The work was recently done by inmates from the Johnstown Community Corrections Center.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • alanna Hartzok targets income disparity

    Alanna Hartzok described herself as being a conservative progressive.
    The Franklin County resident said she is in favor of conserving environmental resources, education opportunities, Social Security and Medicare, while wanting to progressively address wealth inequality, health care and taxation.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Schools rise to leadership challenge

    Forest Hills and Cambria Heights high school students put the spirit of healthy competition toward a good cause and picked up some lessons in leadership along the way.

    April 19, 2014

  • KATEY LADIKA Student’s photos win awards

    A Forest Hills High School junior has captured several awards in a high school arts and writing contest that has identified greats such as Truman Capote and Andy Warhol.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Siehl JIM SIEHL | Music to my ears

    Seldom has $15 produced such a high level of entertainment as it did a few weeks ago when I found myself in the second row just left of center keeping back the tears once again during my third live performance of “Les Miserables.”

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Michele Bender Bye, bye, Easter birdies

    Animals fascinated my mom. Riding the train between Johnstown and Philly, she saw horses, pigs, sheep, cows … a Mattel See ’n Say of farm critters.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Eggert Columnist Photo Travelogue of terror features Johnstown area

    A historic week will surround the venerable Silver Drive-In come the beginning of May.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads