After a local boy scout looking to receive his eagle scout ranking cleaned up portions of the Bethpage Cemetery last summer, the Farmingdale-Bethpage Historical Society (FBHS) has been making efforts to continue the much needed restoration of the grounds. The cemetery has suffered much wear from the environment and lack of care. In recent months, members of FBHS have made many efforts to continue the cleanup process.
Dr. Benjamin Giminaro points out a tombstone under the over grown foliage at the cemetery.
Dr. Benjamin Giminaro, president of FBHS, and Arthur Kranz, chairman of the restoration committee, have been working diligently during the summer to cleanup as much as they can at the cemetery, with the assistance of Butch Starkie, who owns a gardening center in Farmingdale, and members of his crew. Starkie and others have made much progress at the cemetery, digging up overgrown trees and ridding the area of foliage which is blocking many of the tombstones in areas of the cemetery.
According to Dr. Giminaro, much has been done, but there is still a lot of work which needs to be completed. He said that once most of the overgrown trees are taken out and some of the plants and shubbery are removed, the Town of Oyster Bay, responsible for maintaining the cemetery, will periodically come in and mow the lawns. Currently, the grass is barely visible in parts of the cemetery.
"We want to set it up for the easiest way to clean," Dr. Giminaro explained, "so the town could come in and mow."
Years ago, Dr. Giminaro explained, there was a perpetual care fund for the cemetery, which was later abandoned, and the care of the cemetery was left in the hands of the town.
Dr. Giminaro and Kranz have found that locating records of who is buried at the cemetery is no easy task. Over the past few weeks, Kranz has been personally recording the names and dates of birth and death, if available, from each tombstone. That is, those stones which are currently accessible.
"One man came down here from Rochester," Dr. Giminaro explained, "and asked us to clean up the area around his mother's tombstone, giving us a donation to do the work." While donations are always necessary and certainly helpful, volunteers to help clean up the site are also needed. Thus far, Dr. Giminaro and Kranz have been doing much of the work themselves.
"It's sad," Dr. Giminaro said, adding that people have visited the cemetery from as far as Pennsylvania and Florida, "there is such a history here."
"We're learning more and more as people have been coming and telling us about their families," Kranz noted. He added that many historic families are buried at the cemeteries, families who first settled in Farmingdale, including the Powell, Ketcham and Van Sise families, among others. Dr. Giminaro added that they are not cleaning the grounds for one particular family, rather for the benefit of the whole cemetery and its appearance.
"We're operating this as an entire project," he said. "We're going to do what's best for the cemetery as a whole."
The last known burial took place at the cemetery in mid-June, when a member of the Kaufold family was buried in a family plot. Dr. Giminaro and Kranz said that they are uncertain whether or not there is any other room for burials which do not have pre-purchased plots at the cemetery.
Although all their hard work has certainly allowed for a great improvement at the cemetery, Dr. Giminaro and Kranz said they cannot do it alone. Even with the help of a few other people, all the necessary restoration cannot be done without more volunteers and donations. Much of the improvements have been paid for historical society funds, and most of the work has been done by its members.
The FBHS is asking residents for their help. In restoring the cemetery, they hope to honor those who have lived in the area, the founders of Farmingdale-Bethpage, and to improve the appearance of the area for those who will come into the area in the future. Any donations, made payable to the Bethpage Cemetery Fund, may be sent to the Farmingdale-Bethpage Historical Society, PO Box 500, Farmingdale, NY 11735.