Friday, July 19, 2024

A recent Memorial Day ceremony at Cambridge Cemetery. (Photo: Paul Brymer / Paul’s Portrait Arts)

Cambridge Cemetery has seen a surge in burials during the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s taking a toll also on cemetery workers, Department of Public Works commissioner Owen O’Riordan told city councillors Monday.

Since early March, there have been 76 burials at the Coolidge Avenue, West Canbridge, cemetery.

“This far exceeds any number that we’ve had in many years,” O’Riordan said. “Cemetery crews have been in on a fairly constant basis. They’ve been working up to six days a week.”

“I think this is where the impact of Covid-19 is most obvious and, indeed, I think most devastating to members of the community,” O’Riordan said.

Parks crews who maintain the cemetery have had to step in to assist on burials. By necessity, all have been on hand to see dozens of services held by families forced to maintain social distancing while grieving. “It’s a pretty devastating experience for people to be there observing,” O’Riordan said.

The 66-acre site is across the street from Mount Auburn Cemetery, which was contacted Tuesday to see if burial figures there have also risen significantly in the past 10 weeks. Mount Auburn Cemetery did not respond immediately.

With Memorial Day a week away, flowers have been planted in the veterans area of the cemetery – the city notes the cemetery is a resting place for Medal of Honor recipients Joseph F. Scott and Alphonso M. Lunt; literary figures Henry and William James and William Dean Howells; Baseball Hall of Famers John Clarkson and Timothy Keefe; as well as unsung Cantabrigians – and volunteers with the fire and police department will be plant flags, O’Riordan said.

But on May 5, the Veterans’ Department “made the difficult decision” to cancel the Memorial Day parade and public observance, according to the city’s website. A recorded observance will replace the annual ceremony.