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It is a chilly spring morning in early April. A light fog is beginning to lift leaving behind sparkling dew on the grass and monuments twinkle in the early morning light. A jogger pads down a winding path passing grounds workers erecting a tent for a graveside funeral service. A four-legged friend gingerly walks their human stopping to sniff and be petted by workers trimming trees.
On the other side of the grounds, staff are busily preparing for the day: scheduling meetings with families, planning events and programs, preparing to welcome school children through the gates, and coordinating with contractors and vendors to ensure the grounds are safe and clean. How does a cemetery the size of Lake View make it look so easy?
Over 150 years ago, in its first years, Lake View operated out of a tiny office on the grounds. A small group of employees managed the burials and grounds, acting more in a “order taking” capacity than providing comprehensive services to families. This model began to change as interments increased and the popularity of Lake View as a destination swelled. Today, a team of 50 staff as well as outside contractors plan for, maintain, beautify, and steward Lake View 365 days a year.
The Lake View Cemetery Association, led by President & CEO, Katharine (Kathy) Goss, is the provider of interment services at the Cemetery, as well as preserving and maintaining the grounds to ensure a welcoming environment for bereaved families. The Association includes a strong finance staff, Memorial Advisors, grounds staff, and general operations. “Each department at Lake View works in close partnership one another, and each understands how their role is essential to the mission of the 150 year old cemetery,” says Kathy.
“Lake View has evolved in ways that the founders may have not predicted,” shares Kathy Goss. “We have always been open to all walks of life, but a great deal of effort has been made by our team to position Lake View to be top of mind for people when considering their burial planning, as well as a destination for our community.”
Since Lake View was founded in the spirit of the rural garden cemetery, it has unique needs. There are hundreds of species of trees, plants, flowers, and shrubs. There are intricate water systems throughout the grounds. There are 66 sections that need to be tended on a daily basis. Specific, focused maintenance is essential to keeping the Cemetery in top-notch shape.
Under the direction of Chief Operating Officer, Marilyn Brandt, the day-to-day operations of the Cemetery run smoothly. What does that look like? Everything that goes into making sure that Lake View is safe, clean, and ready for families and visitors. There is a team of grounds workers that cares for graves and headstones, plowing, contractors that handle lawn maintenance, and care and upkeep of the incredible amount of horticulture that adorn the grounds. “Together with other members of the grounds team, we will assess the needs on the grounds and either handle it internally, or call in an expert contractor depending on the need,” shares Marilyn. An example of this is the special care needed for the famous Moses Cleaveland trees that call Lake View home. These trees are at least 200 years old and need special expertise, so several outside companies handle the care of the trees.
“Our priority is always burials and serving our families,” Marilyn says. “If something happens in the cemetery, like storm damage, we need to make sure that trees, roads, and waterlines are taken care of and the area is safe for a burial service or family visitation. Budget, safety, and timeliness help us decide how we are going to handle the maintenance issues.” Providing bereaved families what they need and when they need it is always at the core of the work.
Whether a family is planning for the future, or has an immediate need, they can trust the support, guidance, and care of the Memorial Advisors. Led by Vice President of Family Services, Andrew Bales, this team supports individuals and families through the planning process. The Family Service team was not always something that existed at Lake View, or many cemeteries. “Our team works tirelessly to advise individuals and families in the best way within their budget to memorialize their loved one,” says Kathy Goss. “We do our best to meet the family where they are and help them meet their needs, whatever they are.” The Family Service team, with seven advisors and growing, manages about $7M in revenue annually. A percentage of that revenue goes into a trust to ensure that all of the spaces are taken care of into perpetuity.
“We do our best to meet the family where they are and help them meet their needs, whatever they are.”
The Lake View Cemetery Foundation was founded in 1984 to raise the funds necessary to maintain, preserve, and enhance the historical, architectural, and horticultural aspects of the Cemetery and provide educational and cultural outreach programs to the general public. Under the helm of Foundation Executive Director, Leah Whidden, this small but mighty team works all year to support the mission of the Cemetery, effectively bringing in support, visitors, and providing educational experiences for all ages.
It was a small group of visionary leaders that founded Lake View Cemetery to be a peaceful respite for the bereaved; a sanctuary in the city for the community to enjoy, and a final resting place for Clevelanders. Behind the gates of Lake View today, you will find a team of people committed to keeping that vision alive and well, now and into the future.
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