PHONE: (313) 593-5518
DATE: December 16, 2004
Student digs history! After taking "Graveyards
101" at UM-Dearborn, she began group dedicated to preserving historic
cemetery in Huron Township
DEARBORN---A classroom assignment at the University of Michigan-Dearborn
has led a student to launch an effort to preserve and maintain an old
cemetery in Huron Township, in the southwestern part of Wayne County.
Jennifer Cerasuolo was one of the approximately 60 students and community
members who took part in a one-credit seminar series nicknamed "Graveyards
101" at UM-Dearborn last summer.
The course was actually planned as a series of lectures to offer "entertainment
and education for the public," according to political science Prof.
Ronald Stockton who organized the series.
In addition, UM-Dearborn students were allowed to register and receive
one credit hour for attending the lectures, completing readings and writing
a paper based on information found in local graveyards.
Cerasuolo's project, analyzing five to seven tombstones in the Huron
Township Cemetery, has led her to organize a group, supported by a Web
site, with the mission of "making sure all cemeteries get the respect
and care they deserve."
"For my project I chose a cemetery that was close to my heart, and
I had recently had learned I had ancestors buried in there," Cerasuolo
said. The Huron Township cemetery is in New Boston, surrounded by the
Cerasuolo first became familiar with the cemetery when she and classmates
would go there to play hooky in high school. "We stumbled on a peaceful
place to get way from a crazy school and family lives, and found a small
area with graves that were around longer than Michigan was a state,"
In her visits to the cemetery for the seminar, Cerasuolo found markers
for people who died in the early decades of the 19th century, as well
as some markers for families who were ancestors of girls who had gone
to school with her.
But the condition of the cemetery disappointed her. "When I returned
to the cemetery for the first time in 12 years, it looked terrible!"
she said. She felt strongly enough to start a group called the 'Huron
Crusaders' which is dedicated to preserving history through cemeteries.
"If a cemetery is not cleaned up, we get on the people to get the
job done!" she said. In their work, the group discovered that there
are state regulations regarding cemetery maintenance, and through their
Web site they are connecting with other people and resources around the
"We use topographic maps as resources to find abandoned cemeteries,
as well as active ones," she said. The group also has a cross-country
Web-based discussion group (http://www.msnusers.com/savehuron) with more
than 70 members who share information about significant cemeteries as
well as ones in disrepair.
The UM-Dearborn seminar series was so popular with both students and
community members that Stockton is planning to develop a new series of
lectures likely to be offered next May.
"Without this class, I never would have been compelled to do this,
and I have made so many people happy in the process," Cerasuolo said.
"What a good feeling! Compassion for our dead is just as important
as it is for the living."