Greed makes for many losers in cemetery debacle

3 CENTS WORTH

July 22, 1992|By Russ Mullaly

There are more comments to be made on the continuing travesty occurring at St. Mary's Cemetery in Ellicott City. Construction work on two houses progressed until Monday as if this were an ordinary building site. There is more at stake than this single issue.

Construction work stopped Monday when bones were discovered. Last week, casket handles and bricks of the type used around graves were found on the cemetery property in the sewer line right of way. These findings were deemed "inconclusive" by the county Public Works office. Interesting; casket remains found in a cemetery, fancy that.

One of the members of the Friends of St. Mary's Cemetery and Preservation Society told me that it was intimated to them that the burial items may have been "planted" to stop construction. Yes, run down to the antique store and buy some badly corroded, dirt-encrusted casket handles and we'll plant them in an abandoned cemetery.

Why are cemeteries such as this described as "abandoned"? They certainly were not abandoned by those interred there; the deceased haven't left to go elsewhere. I would say an abandoned cemetery is one that has had all graves moved to another location.

Stepping back and viewing this whole situation, the question arises: Who stands to benefit from the destruction of this cemetery?

Does Allen Becker, chief executive officer of Chesapeake Federal Savings and Loan, and owner of the property, benefit? This situation has resulted in a lot of bad press for him and his company. He will be out construction expenses if no one buys these homes.

Does the county benefit? County officials don't look so pristine after denying permits to one owner of the site and then approving them for another. Also, the failure to comment on the moral aspects of this situation makes officials look questionable.

Does the Catholic Church benefit? Its image has become tarnished after telling a family that offered to purchase the property (to maintain it for deceased family members and others), that the church doesn't sell cemeteries, and then turning around and selling it to a developer, of all people!

As I see it, whoever buys these houses will be looked upon by the community as social lepers for be ing a party to this sad scene. So who benefits? Or could this just be a precedent-setting incident to allow this sort of immoral activity to occur elsewhere? Remember, this destruction was deemed "legal," so some greedy bucks could be squeezed out of 3.2 acres.

This sort of activity is systemic of the ethics of this country, if not the country as a whole. Big business is calling the shots, not our elected officials or we the people.

I just have this feeling that the County Council has already approved Wal-Mart, will approve Waverly Woods II, and will continue to remain silent on the destruction of under-maintained cemeteries. I hope I am wrong.

If these things come to pass, it is time to clean house. And I mean from the top down. It is time to get some people in office who truly represent their neighbors and county residents' concerns.

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