Dozens Of Volunteers Work To Restore Historic Philly Cemetery - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Dozens Of Volunteers Work To Restore Historic Philly Cemetery

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Leaves an branches scatter the ground in some areas of the historic Mount Moriah cemetery. Leaves an branches scatter the ground in some areas of the historic Mount Moriah cemetery.
A tree rests against a gravestone at the Mount Moriah Cemetery. A tree rests against a gravestone at the Mount Moriah Cemetery.
The Mount Moriah Cemetery sits on Philadelphia's southwest border with Yeadon, Delaware County. The Mount Moriah Cemetery sits on Philadelphia's southwest border with Yeadon, Delaware County.
PHILADELPHIA -

So maybe there is life after death?

Paulette Rhone gazes out over 140 rolling acres at the Mount Moriah Cemetery that straddles Philadelphia's southwest border with Yeadon- Delaware County and smiles.

"Even though it is a bad situation," she tells Fox 29s Bruce Gordon, "it can be turned around if people step up and make a difference."

The cemetery was built in 1855 and was once believed to be the largest in Pennsylvania.

But by the spring of 2011, Mount Moriah was all-but abandoned.

Years of neglect had turned this historic place- full of war heroes, prominent Philadelphians and just-plain folks, into a trash dump.

Literally.

Cemetery volunteer Rob Hobdell remembers looking for the gravesite of his cousin Fred, back in October, 2010.

"This roadway was totally a wall of trash and construction waste," he said, as he walked along a now-clear pathway through tree-shrouded headstones.

He couldn't get near the grave.

"My reaction is not repeatable," he told Gordon with a smile.

The city of Philadelphia got involved, joining Paulette, Rob and other volunteers, and investing time, equipment and more than $64,000 to help begin restoring the beauty-- and dignity-- of this special place.

Without the city's efforts?

"It would have been mostly beyond hope."

A judge Tuesday closed the city's case against the former owners of the cemetery.

They're dead and gone, so there's no one to go after.

But Brian Abernathy, chief of staff to the Managing Director, says that doesn't mean Philadelphia will walk away.

"This site," says Abernathy, "has too much history, and too many family stakeholders to be ignored."

The long term goal is to name a new board to run this cemetery- with representatives from Philly and Yeadon.

Until then, dozens of volunteers will continue to chip away at years of neglect.

Paulette Rhone- president of the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, describes the work as, "like turning a ship. But it's starting to turn around, finally, and that makes me really happy."

The people beneath the gravestones may be gone.

But thanks to Friends they never knew, they will not be forgotten.

If you'd like to help the cemetery volunteers in their restoration efforts, go to fommc.org and check out their schedule of clean-ups.

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