When we think of cemeteries we often think of sadness and grief. It is where we go to bury our loved ones, to say our final goodbyes. The leaders at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Hanover see their grounds and facilities as much more than that though.
Mount Olivet itself is a historical treasure, not to mention the many historical figures from Hanover’s past that are buried there. But the cemetery’s leaders are looking forward too, expanding their offerings to meet other community needs, like the pet ossuary.
It is written in a recent Friends of Mount Olivet Cemetery newsletter that, “Cemeteries across America are recognizing the potential for repositioning as a cultural and historical resource. I suppose one could say that cemeteries are becoming interested in attracting the living, not just the dead.”
Tim Raubenstine, vice president of The Friends of the Mount Olivet Cemetery board of directors, said that Mount Olivet is a place where people can learn about the rich history of the area.
“We look at the cemetery not only as a place to go to rest but also a place of history,” Raubenstine said. “That’s what we want people to understand, cemeteries don’t have to be just about someone passing away, they can be about celebrating who came before us.”
Mary Bartleson has been the cemetery’s office manager for 13 years and said she is both fascinated by and passionate about the cemetery. She said the cemetery is a continuation of history, it’s growing every day. She said she is motivated to continue learning the history of the facility and people who have been put to final rest there.
“Just last year we buried a lady here who was the only woman that was on The Manhatten Project,” Bartleson said. “She’s at Mount Olivet Cemetery – it’s unique, it’s wonderful to actually have a piece of the present day history right here.”
When the idea was proposed in 2004 to open a pet haven portion of the cemetery, it wasn’t to be progressive, rather an effort to respond to the needs of the community.
“A week didn’t go by that we didn’t get an inquiry about a pet cemetery here or in the surrounding area,” Bartleson said.
According to Bartleson there are 106 animals buried at Mount Olivet. The pet sanctuary has grown since its inception. Today the sanctuary features statues of animals and a walkway, all overlooking peaceful green land.
To honor those furry friends, each year in September there is a pet memorial and blessing program for the families of the pets buried there.
Bartleson said that she is working with volunteers to research and verify the history of people buried in the cemetery and different features of the cemetery, like the chapel that was erected on the grounds sometime around 1912. She said she would like to see educational tours offered eventually to share these historical findings with the community.
Whether it’s pets or people, Mount Olivet is a place to remember and honor those who are no longer with us. The cemetery has been a stronghold in the community for 157 years and those leading the organization intend to continue evolving to serve the needs of the community.