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article about Hillcrest Cemetery, Canton Township
Posted by: Lori Sue Baus Date: February 10, 2002 at 10:31:36
  of 1205

Here are two articles about Hillcrest Cemetery in Canton Township that i thought may be of interest/use to somebody....

From the Canton Repository
Sunday 10th February 2002

Pauper’s graveyard often forgotten
By ED BALINT Repository staff writer

CANTON TWP. -- Hillcrest Cemetery is a lonely piece of land where 2,617 souls sleep.
Most are forgotten. Numbers alone mark many graves.
Some are not marked at all.
Sunken patches crisscross the cemetery. Collapsed wooden coffins and pine boxes have left depressions and dead grass. It’s hard to walk through the graveyard without stepping on one.
Eight headstones are scattered over its 5.39 acres.
Names have faded on several monuments. Others are jumbles of broken and discolored sandstone that visitors have tried to piece back together.
A cross has broken off the headstone of Joseph Tadler. His birth and death - 1872 and 1936 - are inscribed.
An evergreen hides the grave marker of Pansy E. King. It reads: 1909-1960.
This is the pauper’s graveyard of Stark County.
It’s tucked along Faircrest Street SW, bordered by the Multi-County Juvenile Attention Center and rows of houses. Faircrest Memorial Middle School is across the street.
The county-owned cemetery opened in 1927 as a burial ground for the indigent - among them, streetwalkers, the homeless and welfare recipients.
People who died penniless.
Some had no family. At least none who cared.
Sometimes, relatives couldn’t be located, or couldn’t afford a more traditional burial.
So people whom they had never met said a last goodbye. An undertaker, a minister and county workers often were the only ones at the graveside service.
‘The best we could’
Carl Rose is the closest thing to a Hillcrest historian.
Rose managed the cemetery for about 20 years beginning in 1977.
He was the county’s nuisance inspector and work coordinator, or as he called himself, “the commissioners’ flunky.”
About a dozen friends and family members attended a few of the Hillcrest burials, he recalled.
Usually, no one did.
“We did the best we could,” Rose said, tucking his hands into his coat pockets as he walked the grounds on a chilly January day. “Someone died and you tried to give them a decent burial.”County employees carried the wooden coffins out of a hearse.
With straps they lowered the coffins, covered with a gray cloth, into pine boxes at the bottom of a 6-foot-deep hole. Out of respect, the workers stayed and listened to the brief service.
Bob Sanders of Myers-Kreighbaum-Sanders Funeral Home remembers such burials in the 1960s and 1970s.
“It really was sad,” he said, “that there were no relatives, no one that really seemed to care about the person - that’s what bothered me the most.
“I think when you die, I think that’s the thing that you want to know,” Sanders said. “That somebody cared.”
Dwindling use
A stillborn baby was the last burial at Hillcrest - Alizea Marie Guilford in 1996.
Indigent burials are rare today because Medicaid can cover those costs through a pre-arranged funeral.
Several still occur each year. Indigent burials take place in some township cemeteries and in a portion of Massillon Cemetery. Calvary Cemetery also accepts them, or the bodies are cremated.
Hillcrest remains a little-known spot that apparently hasn’t been written about in local history books. A passer-by might mistake it for a vacant field.
A large paint-chipped and rusted gate guards the entrance. A small sign is on top. The gate is always closed.
An empty flagpole stands in the middle.
A handful of glossy granite headstones glisten like beacons on the otherwise drab landscape. A few sites are marked with splashes of color - bright-red wreaths and flower arrangements with small crosses in the middle.
Towering pines form a canopy over a grass and gravel path.
No fresh tire tracks are visible.
The trail curves to a dead-end near a storage building. Rusty barrels, a coiled fence, an unlabeled plastic pop bottle, pieces of wood and other clutter are next to the structure.
Deep in the cemetery, the crumbling brick foundation of the original gate remains.
Walking the grounds at midnight is calming yet slightly eerie. Moonlight reflects off granite grave markers. An umbrella of stars spreads overhead. The wind dances through the drooping branches of the pines.
The cemetery’s long but shallow history is crammed within the pages of a bulky book at the Stark County Maintenance Department. It’s as old as the cemetery. Some of the ink entries are smudged. Thumbprints mark a few of the page corners.
Names, ages, sex, undertakers, permit numbers and grave numbers fill each line.
The book records people’s existence and death and nothing else.
Causes of death vary.
Homicide. Valvular hearts. Stillborn babies. Tuberculosis. Septicemia. Hanging. Acute brain diabetes. Cardiovascular disease. Senility. Gangrene of the right foot. Emphysema.
The name of the first person buried at Hillcrest is as plain as the cemetery.
James Smith.
He died of a valvular heart June 27, 1927. He had lived at the old Stark County Home. He was given permit No. 44. No age was listed.
Ike Anderson was murdered that same year and laid to rest at Hillcrest.
Other burials lie in the register’s pages.
• In 1932, a 4 1/2 -month baby was aborted.
• In 1933, Nick Lasue, 50, of Canton fell down the stairs and died. He’s buried in grave 693.
• That same year William Stitt, 47, of Nimishillen Township died of tuberculosis. Grave 643 is his final resting place.
• In 1966, an unidentified abandoned baby was buried. Another death on the same page was listed as “unable to determine.”
Hillcrest was most frequently used by the Stark County Home and the city of Canton. Townships also sent bodies there.
But its use dwindled.
County records document the decline: 661 people were buried there in the 1930s, and 516 as late as the 1960s. During the ’80s, just 87 people were laid to rest at Hillcrest. Only two people were buried there in the ’90s.
The county commissioners’ office occasionally receives inquiries from residents who want to erect a monument.
In such cases, the family member must reimburse the county for the cost of the burial, according to a resolution commissioners passed in November 2000. The cost drops over the passing years.
Little money for upkeep
The governor cut an indigent burial fund from the state budget. Welfare departments stopped chipping in money a few years ago. Townships and municipalities are responsible.
Sometimes, funeral homes have to absorb the expense of an indigent burial or cremation.
But if there is another burial, two empty concrete vaults are waiting at Hillcrest.
Both are weathered, reflecting the cemetery’s inactivity. Tar coating is peeling off one of the boxes - 9 feet by 3 1/2 feet.
Back in the ’70s, “you had a casket and they put it in a wooden rough box. Well, you see what happens to those,” Rose said, planting his foot and matting the grass on a fallen grave.
County employees dumped about 75 loads of dirt into the graves, Rose estimated, but a tight budget forced the county to stop the practice.
Commissioners no longer dedicate staff to Hillcrest. The Stark County Park District mows the cemetery.
“No one comes back here anymore,” Rose said. “Once in a while someone would put a few flowers on, or someone would call and see where someone was buried.”
Rest in peace
Rose, Sanders and Denny Reed won’t forget the secluded cemetery.
Reed is co-owner and has worked at Reed Funeral Home since 1964. He attended services at Hillcrest in the ’60s and ’70s.
Reed glances over whenever he drives by.
He never sees any visitors.
“People tend to forget about them,” Reed said. “They tended to forget about them before they even passed away, and that’s why (most relatives) didn’t want to be involved in the place.”
Still, “to know that (Hillcrest) continues on, and that they haven’t been totally forgotten, even though their life is over,” he said, “... gives us a good feeling.”
“They’re remembered.”
When ground was broken next door on a new building at the Multi-County Juvenile Attention Center, Sanders thought of Hillcrest.
“With all the construction and all of the bulldozers and everything,” Sanders said, “you look over there and I wonder if it’s quiet. I wonder if it’s peaceful for those folks.
“The people who are buried there are people like the people who are at cemeteries like Sunset Hills and Forest Hills,” he said. “They’re people in the eyes of God.”

Cemetery is resting place for local hero and his wife
By ED BALINT Repository staff writer

CANTON TWP. -- All of those buried at Hillcrest Cemetery are not forgotten.
Each week, Rose Sickafoose visits the graves of her father and mother - Bradford and Margaret Gainer.
Her daughter, Jeannie Makridis, also visits.
They place yellow tulips on Bradford’s grave and baby red roses on Margaret’s.
Sickafoose rearranges the daisies and pink carnations that are already there and straightens homemade wooden crosses.
She cries.
Sickafoose wishes her parents weren’t buried at Hillcrest.
She says they deserve more.
The county-owned cemetery is home to the indigent - those who died penniless and often alone over the decades.
But within the pauper’s graveyard lies a hero and his wife - Sickafoose’s father and mother.
Bradford Gainer received a Carnegie Medal for trying to help rescue 10 men from suffocating when a fire broke out in a coal mine in Pursglove, W.Va. on Jan. 8, 1943.
He walked 1,500 feet through a tunnel and 750 feet through smoke before discovering the men had already left their work area.
Gainer helped carry out a semiconscious foreman who had fallen to the floor. The foreman and the 10 other men died.
Gainer suffered the effects of smoke and gas for two days, according to the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.
He was awarded $1,000, bought a house for $500 and moved to Canton to find work after the coal mines closed.
Nearly 25 years later, he succumbed to black lung, dying with little money.
Medical expenses had drained his savings. His insurance policy had expired. His relatives still lived in West Virginia.
Sickafoose was 16 when she stood next to her mother, two sisters and a brother at her father’s graveside service.
Nobody else was there.
It was an overcast and unseasonably cold September day in 1967.
A man who had been honored for bravery was given a simple burial. He was placed in a wooden coffin.
A grave marker eventually sunk out of sight.
“It was like we lost our hero,” Sickafoose recalled.
Four years later, Gainer’s wife died of cancer and also was buried at Hillcrest - about 20 yards away.
Decades later, Sickafoose and Makridis contacted the Stark County commissioners’ office to find the unmarked graves.
Bradford’s butts up against another burial site. Margaret’s is next to a bush.
Only wooden sticks marked them.
When Sickafoose visits, she apologizes to her parents for their final resting spot.
Memories of her dad drift through her head.
She’ll remember sitting with her father on the porch, watching birds before he went to work. Or how she always bought him handkerchiefs for his birthday.
She describes her father as a strong, hard-working man who was always willing to help others.
He once rescued a 3-year-old girl from the bottom of a water well.
“He was a kind person,” Sickafoose said softly. “He was the kind of person you’d want as your best friend, especially if you were down in a coal mine - they don’t make them like him anymore. When I lost him, I lost my best friend.
“If I’m feeling down or have a problem,” she said, “I’ll go out and talk to him, and I believe he’s there in spirit.”
Sickafoose remembers her mother as a dainty woman and loyal wife.
Makridis said the meager burials aren’t a reflection of her grandparents.
That’s why she takes yellow tulips - what her grandfather planted in the family garden - and red roses - what he gave to his wife.
“I don’t want them to think that nobody cares or somehow this is disgraceful because they’re in a pauper’s grave,” she said. “This doesn’t even touch the kind of people they were. They may lay in the potter’s field, but they were rich in everything else.”
Makridis and her mother would like to erect headstones.
They want Bradford’s engraved with verse John 15:13 from the New Testament. It was embossed on his bronze Carnegie Medal:
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

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