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Lockport's Glenwood Cemetery, in financial peril, may close after 200 years

Lockport's Glenwood Cemetery, where as many as 11,000 local residents are believed to have been buried over the last 200 years, may soon close its gates because it's running out of money.

Allan VanDeMark of Lockport, who serves as board president of the privately owned cemetery, said Friday that he had to lend money to the cemetery to cover payroll and other expenses in 2017 and 2018.

An emergency foundation grant kept the gates open, but VanDeMark said the cemetery is down to its last $10,000. The cemetery's annual budget is $150,000.

VanDeMark said an effort is underway to set up an emergency fundraising campaign.

The cemetery's former superintendent, Edward Ives, was arrested May 27 and charged with stealing money from the cemetery, but VanDeMark said the amount in question isn't enough to make a major difference to the ledgers.

The cemetery, like others in the region, has been hard hit by the increasing popularity of cremation.

"We have very little business, and we don't have money," VanDeMark said.

A substantial number of people have reserved plots, but they're still alive.

"If the doors are closed, people are going to wonder where they're going to be buried," VanDeMark said.

The cemetery is located on 60 acres of rolling, hilly land on Glenwood Avenue. Only 31 acres have been developed for cemetery use, according to Michael F. Niethe, who took over as cemetery superintendent after retiring from his post as Lockport police chief last June.

"What makes it beautiful, the steep hills, also makes it hard to maintain," Niethe said.

The wet spring this year made it hard to mow the grass, and people have complained, Niethe said. But until the weather warmed up, not much could be done.

"We had places lawnmowers got stuck. We couldn't cut," he said. "We're catching up."

"It's like a swimming pool," VanDeMark said. "Whether we have 1,000 people use it or one person, it costs the same."

The Glenwood Cemetery Association has four employees, he said.

The cemetery was incorporated in 1863, but the site has been used for burials since the earliest days of settlement in Lockport in the early 19th century, he said.

Among the well-known people buried there are Washington Hunt, the only Niagara County politician to serve as governor of New York, and William R. Kenan, who left his money and property to found Lockport's Kenan Center.

That could be why his family's Kenan Foundation stepped forward last September with a $50,000 grant. Thomas Kenan, the founder's son, gave $25,000 with another $25,000 expected soon, VanDeMark said.

VanDeMark, former president of VanDeMark Chemical Co. and current quality manager at Milward Alloys, said he lent the cemetery $22,000 of his own money from September 2017 to September 2018, until the Kenan grant came in.

Ives, who was fired as superintendent in May 2018, was charged with third-degree grand larceny for allegedly writing 14 checks totaling $4,289 on a closed cemetery account. He also was charged with petit larceny for writing $915 worth of checks to himself on an active cemetery account.

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