ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Spring cleaning is underway at the 159-year-old Woodlawn Cemetery, the final resting place for many of Elmira’s historic figures, including Mark Twain, his wife Olivia Langdon Clemens, civil rights leader John W. Jones, film and television producer Hal Roach, and Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis.

“Well, the grass begins to grow and so we have to start mowing,” said Sherry Mandell, Secretary to the Woodlawn Cemetery Commission. “In order to mow effectively, we need to be able to get around a lot of headstones, a lot up and down a lot of hills. So, we go through the park, and we remove all of the items that may have been on graves but got blown away. We don’t know where they came from. We will go through and clean all of that stuff up. We put out a release asking people to please come and remove their winter decorations so that we can make room for spring and summer.”

The cemetery says it’s respectfully asking lot owners to remove any winter decoration items by May 15th. People who can’t come to the cemetery to remove items can contact the main office to have the items removed and saved temporarily until they can be picked up.

“We specifically want people to remove their winter items at this time, wreaths and so on,” said Nancy Campbell, the cemetery’s Acting Secretary. “They can begin bringing their spring and summer items. Although we do ask that they keep it to a minimum because mowing and trimming is the most costly maintenance chore here at the cemetery. A lot of decorations do hinder and interfere with mowing and trimming.”

Woodlawn Cemetery covers 184 acres, or roughly the size of 140 football fields. That means crews will be working nearly every day to keep the lawn mowed from the spring to the fall.

“They mow from 8:30 in the morning until 4 o’clock in the afternoon, every day of the week that they possibly can,” said Shery Mandell. “If it’s pouring down, torrential rains they won’t, but they do mow in the rain. It’s quite a process and it takes approximately or a week or two to get all the way around. So, once they get all the way around and get back to where they started, it’s time to start again.”

Woodlawn National Cemetery is next to Woodlawn Cemetery, and is run by the US. Department of Veterans Affairs. Crews at Woodlawn National Cemetery say they have also started working the grounds, as both cemeteries prepare for Memorial Day.

“Memorial Day is coming and that’s a very big day here at the cemetery. And we want to make sure everything looks perfect,” said Sherry Mandell.

“Certainly the traffic is busiest at Memorial Day, I’d say from the whole year,” said Nancy Campbell. “So, trying to have the entire cemetery mowed and prepared is our major goal. But throughout the summer we also have a lot of tourists come in. Mark Twain is of course a big draw, Hal Roach, John Jones, Ernie Davis. Yeah, we get a lot of tourists all summer long.”

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