Cemetery restoration overseen with loving care

NEIGHBORS

May 29, 2001|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE WHIPPS Cemetery, off St. Johns Lane in Ellicott City, was little more than a dumping ground when Barbara Sieg began restoring it in the mid-1980s. The property had been neglected for years and then was damaged by a developer's bulldozer, Sieg said.

The cemetery was founded in 1833 by the Whipps family, whose members had been blacksmiths for generations, Sieg said. There are about 50 stones on the 1-acre site, dating from 1833 to 1920, she said. Sixteen of the stones mark the graves of members of the Whipps family. Most of the stones are dated from 1840 to 1880.

Sieg, who was president of the St. John's Community Association, contacted surviving members of the family, who gave her permission to begin restoration. With the help of many volunteers and gardening clubs, "we just started clearing, inch by inch," she said. "I'm just the caretaker of the cemetery; have been right from the start. I just started falling in love with it."

Sieg said three Howard County garden clubs have been particularly helpful - the Cross Country Garden Club, the Greenbriar Garden Club and the Bent Twig Garden Club. "They've adopted little sections," Sieg said.

Eventually, Sieg helped create a nonprofit organization - Friends of the Whipps Cemetery - which now owns the 1-acre property near St. Johns Lane and Frederick Road. Four members of the Whipps family sit on the board, she said.

The group holds a yard and plant sale every year, which raises about $1,000 and receives about $800 a year from the community association, Sieg said. The money helps pay for tree removal, stone repair and other expenses.

"It's a scramble to find enough money to keep it good," she said.

On Sunday, the cemetery was the site of a Victorian-era picnic to honor Howard County's 150th birthday. People used to picnic in cemeteries to honor Memorial Day, Sieg said, and she thought it would be fun to re-create the tradition.

"We had a small window of opportunity before the heavens opened up," Sieg said.

The picnic featured about a half-dozen volunteers dressed in period costumes. Old-fashioned fare such as ham and biscuits, homemade jams, jellies and cookies and lemonade was available for volunteers and visitors.

Talks were delivered on life in 19th-century Howard County, cemetery gardening and tombstone symbols.

One highlight of the event was 15-year-old Chris Fabiszak's re-enactment of the story of William Graham, a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad brakeman, who died in 1878 at age 20.

Gates scholarship winner

Speaking of winners, Meredith Price, daughter of Craig and Rebecca Price, who graduated from Centennial High School four years ago, recently won a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. The scholarship, established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, pays for her to attend a yearlong graduate-level program at Darwin College at Cambridge University in England, her father said.

Meredith, who just graduated as valedictorian from North Carolina State University with a degree in biochemistry, will study the history and philosophy of medicine. Then she plans to attend medical school at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, her father said.

This is the program's first year, and about 120 scholarships were awarded to students from all over the world. According to the foundation Web site, the goal of the program is to "create a network of future leaders from around the world who will bring new vision and commitment to improving the life circumstances of citizens in their respective countries."

Craig Price is confident his daughter qualifies.

"What she wants to do is work on informing people about medical issues and medical care," he said. "Her brain is in science and medicine, and her heart is in humanities, so she wants to somehow combine the two."

Help for plants

Having a problem with your perennials? Are your annuals ailing? Bring your plant problems to the Miller branch library and get help from master gardeners. Participants in the master gardener program have received training from the Maryland Cooperative Extension.

The plant clinics are being held from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays through Sept. 29, and from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Sept. 24. No sessions will be held Aug. 4-11, Sept. 1 and 3.

Registration is not required for these drop-in programs.

Information: 410-313-1978.

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