Lowell Cemetery Columbarium Dedication Speech

Thanks to Jim Latham, President of the Trustees of Lowell Cemetery, for sharing the text of his remarks made at Saturday’s dedication of the Oliver Whipple Columbarium at Lowell Cemetery:

Good Morning, I’m Jim Latham, President of the Trustees here at Lowell Cemetery. Other Trustees in attendance this morning are Bob McKittrick, Lew Karabatsos, Alex Wilson, Ann Marie Page, Rosemary Noon, George Duncan, Darren Sykes, Brian Chapman, Mehmed Ali and Sayon Soeun. I expect many of you know our very capable staff Bray Walsh, Superintendent, Seth Durno, Assistant Superintendent, and Michael Lally our Office Manager

Thank you very much for coming to this dedication of our new O. M. Whipple Columbarium and Garden of Remembrance. In connection with this dedication we are gathering together material for a time capsule that we will bury in the near future. The time capsule will contain many artifacts from Lowell Cemetery and pictures of today’s events

First of all, in keeping with the non-denominational tradition of Lowell Cemetery rather than offer a specific religious invocation, I will ask for a moment of silence during which each of us may reflect in our own way on this very special place and on those who are buried here.

I’d like to provide some background about Lowell Cemetery. We are a non-denominational, multi cultural, privately operated non-profit Cemetery which is still actively both developing its land holdings and selling burial lots. There is a general perception that Lowell Cemetery is exclusively Protestant, ethnically Yankee, filled to capacity with no available burial lots and part of the cemetery system operated by the City of Lowell. None of this is true. We are proud that in the past –and presently- we welcome people of all nationalities, cultures and faiths and we have the capacity to serve many generations to come.

In 1841, a leading group of Lowell citizens wanted to establish a cemetery. After considering several locations, they settled on the “Fort Hill Lot” which was owned by Oliver M. Whipple. The purchase price was $5000. The Cemetery through additional acquisitions now contains 85acres. Whipple was the first President of Lowell Cemetery and he served in that capacity for 27 years. His service and contribution to the Cemetery has justified our naming our columbarium project after him.

The original Trustees hired the eminent engineer and surveyor, George P. Worcester to design the Cemetery. It was modeled after Mt Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, the original garden cemetery in America.

Lowell Cemetery contains many fine examples of sculpture and cemetery art, including the famous lion which is the monument erected for James Cook Ayer, a very successful industrialist who died in 1878. Other notables buried here include Moses Greely Parker, one of the early investors in AT&T, John Jacob Rogers and Edith Nourse Rogers, both members of Congress, Thomas Talbot, Governor of Massachusetts and, more recently, Paul Tsongas, U.S. Senator. In 1998, the Cemetery was included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Since 1841, there have been almost 17,700 burials here, more than 500 of whom are Veterans. We honor all Veterans at our annual Memorial Day observance that is well attended by Veterans groups as well as the general public. Lowell Cemetery Trustees have always been receptive to changing attitudes about death and memorialization.

In the last 20 years, there has been an increasing preference for cremation. Currently, the creation burials represent about 1/3 of our burials. Cremation is less expensive, more ecologically sensitive and quickly growing in acceptance across all ethnic, cultural and religious traditions. In an effort to carry out the intent of the original founders, the current Trustees wanted to continue to be responsive to the needs of the greater Lowell community. They saw a way to do this by offering a columbarium and, along with it, a garden area where the deceased could be appropriately remembered. The discussion began in earnest about 5 years ago. The Trustees were unanimous that, while we always had to always be mindful of our fiduciary responsibilities, if we were to go forward, the project must fit in with the garden style landscape, blend in with the historic monumentation, be of very high quality so as to be a credit to Lowell Cemetery and the greater Lowell Community and, possess the “wow” factor. I’m pleased to say that the folks, who have seen our project, confirm that we have succeeded on all these objectives.

The columbarium contains 980 double niches and also in ground burial locations for cremains. Whenever possible we have used local contractors to help us. While the columbarium walls are stunning by themselves and architecturally unique because of their curvature, the surrounding garden landscaping with benches, a water feature and veterans memorial area differentiates us from other columbariums and creates an inviting place for contemplation and reflection. The beautiful pavilion is an added feature where family and friends can gather for memorial services. We truly believe the O.M. Whipple Columbarium and Garden of Remembrance has established a standard against which other such projects will be judged and we are pleased to make it available to the Greater Lowell Community – and others- at competitive pricing.

I want to thank Atty Richard Howe for again this morning conducting an informative and interesting tour of the cemetery. His tours show what a very special place this is. Our sincere thanks to the Lowell Historical Society for putting together the wonderful exhibit of Lowell Cemetery artifacts in the Talbot Chapel. This one day only exhibit will remain open until 2pm this afternoon. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to visit it.

I also want to especially recognize our Superintendent, Bray Walsh, Assistant Superintendent Seth Durno, along with their staff, and Michael Lally, our Office Manager, each of whom has performed way above and beyond their usual responsibilities in making this project a success and in making the cemetery look so beautiful on this lovely autumn day. Sincere thanks, also, to Enterprise Bank for its advice, support and confidence in what we have done. I also want to acknowledge and express my sincere appreciation to my fellow Trustees. They have individually and collectively devoted an enormous amount of time, attended many- and mainly early morning- meetings- and given generously with their thoughtful input and respective talents. Finally, I want to thank Cheryl Lappin of Cheryl Lappin Consulting who has helped to keep us focused and handled many of the background details that have made our project a success. Very special thanks to Bill Walsh of Walsh Engineering Associates, Inc. who has acted as architect, engineer and project manager. He has been creative, resourceful and receptive to the Board’s ideas. We would not be here without him.

And with that, I introduce Bill Walsh who will give us an overview of the O.M. Whipple Columbarium and Garden of Remembrance, which is now in the very final stages of completion.

Thank you.

* (After speeches)

We would like to take this opportunity to recommit Lowell Cemetery to the ongoing service of the people of greater Lowell for many, many years to come.

In recognition of Oliver Whipple”s vision, generosity and commitment to Lowell Cemetery, I hereby dedicate this columbarium and beautiful landscape as the “O.M. Whipple Columbarium and Garden of Remembrance”

Thank you.