Jim Petrimoulx, retired General Motors employee, is dedicated to preservation of veterans' graves at Soldiers' Rest in Pine Ridge Cemetery.
For 84 Years How to Care for Veterans Graves Continues to Concern Citizens
Times-Tribune of 1925 Conducted Fund Drive for GAR Tribute at Pine Ridge
April 19, 2009
By: Dave Rogers
"Nothing much has changed in 84 years," commented Jim Petrimoulx, who is part of a small group of citizens working to preserve the graves of Civil War and other veterans at Pine Ridge Cemetery.
Mr. Petrimoulx has obtained cooperation from the Veterans Administration to replace deteriorating headstones of Civil War vets. Last year 22 stones were replaced and this year 28 more will be replaced, he said after receiving word from the VA recently.
He noted that an article in the Bay City Times-Tribune of May 23, 1925, told a similar story to that being experienced today: "More Money is Needed to Care for Veterans' Graves," stated the newspaper.
The newspaper led the campaign by printing appeals for funds and publishing the names of the donors. Guy H. Greene was chairman. In 1925 Mayor Robert V. Mundy was the top donor at $15 while Mendel J. Bialy, real estate tycoon, and Otto E. Sovereign, co-owner of Aladdin Ready-cut Homes, contributed $10 each, along with the Exchange Club, Rotary Club of Bay City and the Ann Frisby Fitzhugh Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
(Using the Consumer Price Index, the real value of a $10 donation in 1925 would be about $123 today.)
In 1893 the cemetery was the focus of attention of veterans from around the state when Bay City was the site of the annual convention of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). The GAR was the leading veterans group of that time comprised mainly of Civil War veterans.
"Over the years this community has supported this project with their donations and again we are hoping for the good will of civic-minded folks," Mr. Petrimoulx said.
Although the cemetery was privately owned since its inception in 1858 by Judge James Birney, the Soldiers' Rest portion was owned by the City of Bay City that subsequently deeded it to a veterans group called the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Upon the death of Judge Birney in 1888, the cemetery passed to his daughter, Mrs. Frank Blackwell, (Sophie H. Birney). In 1900 she sold the cemetery to real estate developer George W. Ames. When Mr. Ames died in 1931, before passage of the state law requiring perpetual care of burial grounds, the cemetery was abandoned, a situation that exists today.
Several different efforts have been launched over the years; besides the 1925 initiative, a group headed by Frank Merritt of the Jennison Hardware Company raised funds in the 1950s and 1960s and in the 1970s and 1980s the campaign was headed by Dorothy Moore.
The City of Bay City, because of the overgrown condition of vegetation in the cemetery, cut the weeds and assessed the property about $1,700 for costs of weed cutting in 1997. Since there was no ownership of the abandoned cemetery, the assessment went unpaid and the property went to the State of Michigan under foreclosure in 2000. The state in 2002 issued a quit claim deed to "Pine Ridge Cemetery," a non-existent entity.
The City of Bay City, through City Manager Robert V. Belleman, has taken the position that Pine Ridge is a "retired" cemetery and, as a historic site, should be taken over by the Bay County Historical Society. The Historical Society partnered with the "Friends" group for a few years under its non-profit umbrella. Volunteers for the past 10 years have continued to provide upkeep and raise funds privately for improvements while awaiting municipal or organizational sponsorship of the cemetery to evolve.
Today the Friends of Historic Pine Ridge Cemetery is a non-profit group that is a successor to organizations formed through the years to champion this cause. Supporters of the group include Mr. Petrimoulx, Alan and Jane Flood, Marvin Kusmierz, Dave and Dolores Rogers, Jim Thompson, Dee Dee and Rick Wacksman, Dr. Rita and Gus Gallagher of Washington, D.C., Taylor Langstaff, Kathy Branigan, Lynn Schafer, Tim and Beth Boutell, Boutell Enterprises, Don and Sue David, Dale Wolicki, Paul and Helen Drzyzga, Milton and Gerry Higgs, Gen. Dick DeMara, Meade Gougeon, Charles and Morrow Ford, Guy and Jane Moulthrop, Thomas R. and Sally Tabor, Paul and Ellie Majchrzak and many others who have contributed and assisted over the past decade.
Organizations supporting the effort over the past 10 years include the Rotary Club of Bay City and Parmenter House of the Michigan Department of Human Services, major sponsors, Green Hut Charities, the Osthelder Fund of the Bay Area Community Foundation, 7th Michigan Cavalry Civil War Round Table, St. Mary Catholic Church benefit breakfast, Bay Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Noon Optimist Club, Bay City and Essexville Lions Clubs, Bay City Eagles Club, Loyal Order of Moose and American Legion Post 18.
In-kind supporters during the past decade have included the Lutheran Children's Home, that has provided a portion of the maintenance; Wirt Stone Dock that has provided gravel to keep roads in the cemetery from becoming impassable; Devere Woods and the Essexville-Hampton VFW Post that restored the Civil War cannon; United Way of Bay County Students United; and Richard and Rick Steele of Penzien-Steele Funeral Home who have provided food for volunteer workers at the cemetery.
Persons interested in contributing to the fund for care of veterans' graves at Pine Ridge may send checks to Friends of Historic Pine Ridge Cemetery, 4659 Dale Court, Bay City, MI 48706.###
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On April 24, 2009
at 09:23 PM
nice article Dave I hope to get over ther soon
Rick says there is a huge pile of brush that needs to be removed. Has anyone contacted the city/township to pick it up?
Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
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