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News Briefs 12.11.02

Buried Treasures

Collaborators Richard Reisem and Frank Gillespie felt sympathy whenever they saw people trying to use their oversized picture book, Mount Hope: America's First Municipal Victorian Cemetery, as a walking guide. To help visitors enjoy and understand the cemetery better, the author and photographer have teamed up again to produce Buried Treasures, a brand-new paperback field guide.

Mount Hope is bigger than it appears from a passing glance: Its 196 acres now hold 375,000 graves, and it's estimated that the cemetery will be full in 40 to 50 years. Each of the four chapters of Buried Treasures addresses one quadrant of the grounds, and includes a map and a guide to interesting monuments and burial sites.

Gillespie provided all of the black and white photographs, which are beautiful and instructive as they help orient visitors and explain the details of Victorian symbols. (A hewn tree trunk and a broken cannon both symbolize a life cut off, for example.) The cemetery is a gorgeous place, a rich landscape filled with unusual tombstones, and finding new images to photograph was not difficult, he says.

"I occasionally found things that were interesting to me that ended up being in the book for no other reason than that I liked them," says Gillespie.

As in their earlier collaboration, Reisem wrote the text. Buried Treasures offers mini-biographies of approximately 500 people buried here, including significant figures like Susan B. Anthony and all of the 40-odd former Rochester mayors interred since the cemetery opened in 1838.

But the people selected are "not just the movers and shakers," Reisem says. "We tried to include anecdotal information, things that were important to people, what was on their minds, how life was lived here, and the things that were invented here."

Buried Treasures offers a panoramic view of local customs, natural disasters, unusual deaths, and all kinds of people, such as Malcolm E. Gray, the inventor of the five-day work week, and a slave freed by Colonel Nathaniel Rochester, whose headstone reads only, "We called her Anna."

Buried Treasures was published by the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery and is available at Parkleigh, Barnes & Noble, Borders Books & Music, the Landmark Society Store, and the Memorial Art Gallery store for $19.95; proceeds benefit the Friends.

--- Susan Herman

Winter mobility gap

Tuesday, December 3, was Rochester's first unofficial Lock Up the Disabled and Elderly Day of winter 2002-2003.

It was observed in the usual manner: by forcing many people with mobility problems to stay indoors and out of sight, struggle along sidewalks deep with unshoveled snow, or gamble by taking their wheelchairs and walkers out onto the congested streets.

"The layers of snow and the struggle to get to and from anywhere are definitely issues for our community," says Chris Hilderbrant, a staffer with the local Center for Disability Rights. And that's putting it mildly, by our calculation.

We saw two spectacles in as many minutes the other day: One young woman was pushing a baby stroller down a slushy traffic lane on Meigs Street near Monroe Avenue; her partner didn't have it much easier carrying an older child on the sidewalk. Then there was one old man pushing another who sat in an unpowered wheelchair; that was on the north side of University Avenue, just west of North Goodman Street.

Yes, this community failure to shovel sidewalks has become as obsession of ours. But what's a citizen to do? The non-shovelers know who they are, and at least some of them know it's their responsibility (not the sidewalk plows') to keep the public walks passable in front of their homes, businesses, and institutions. It's a matter of human rights, which are effectively denied if people can't get from here to there.

And the non-shoveling is unworthy of a town that sinks big bucks into inter-city, even international, transportation schemes.

Zoom, zoom, zoom

There's a new internet site you can use to zero in visually on your town and neighborhood to see what toxic threats lurk near you.

The site --- --- offers a map of the whole state, with counties delineated. You merely draw on the map as directed, and a symbol-coded display shows you the Superfund sites, solid waste facilities, whatever, within the area you've zoomed onto.

The website is an informational project of the Albany-based Citizens Environmental Coalition, a gadfly and watchdog group that's keeping even Eastman Kodak on its toes. You can contact the CEC regional office in Buffalo, 716-885-6848, for more information.

Philip Berrigan, 1923-2002

Some have called him St. Philip Berrigan. But the man who died December 6 led an earthy life: World War II combat vet, draft records burner, anti-nuclear weapons activist, multiple "felon," voice of the poor.

George McVey --- a Rochesterian who went to college with Father Phil and did support work when the latter burned draft files in Catonsville, Maryland --- attended the funeral in Baltimore. "The whole service," says McVey, "was a rallying point and a challenge; you know, 'I'm gone, but you've got to keep this up.'"

Berrigan's community, says McVey, asks mourners to support groups like St. Joseph's House (Rochester Catholic Worker) to keep the work going. Et in terra pax.

While you were out

Drum-and-bugle-corps fans finally have something to cheer about: The owners of a minor-league soccer franchise are preparing to build them a 15,000- to 17,000-seat stadium downtown. The multi-purpose facility, to be called PaeTec Park, will be the site of various sporting events, such as minor league and high school soccer and lacrosse games, and concerts, in addition to the magic and majesty of drums and bugles. The City of Rochester gave the project a big boost by selling 15 acres of city-owned land bordering Lyell and Saratoga avenues to the owners of the Rochester Rhinos for a minimal price. Days earlier, county officials reneged on a promise to help fund PaeTec Park with $7 million in money accrued from an increase in the hotel-motel tax, citing outstanding debt for nearby Frontier Field and dire fiscal times in general. (Contrary to the daily paper's claim that PaeTec Park will be built "at no expense to local taxpayers," the deal also includes $15 million of public money in the form of a state grant.) Most residents and business-owners in the neighborhood were surprised by the announcement, and some were alarmed by plans the team unveiled that would involve demolishing their homes and businesses to provide parking for the hordes of drum-and-bugle enthusiasts expected to descend on the area. Rhinos V.P. of Communications Steve Rossi says the phase of the plan affecting the stadium's neighbors is still three to five years away, and may not be necessary at all.

Speaking of unnecessary things, the city school board voted December 6 to change its bylaws, halving the board presidency to a one-year term and stripping the position of its already-minimal authority. The four board members who forced the issue claim the change is intended to improve the board. The three members opposed to the change, including current president Joanne Giuffrida, who could be ousted come January, view the move as a petty, personal attack.

Monroe County Democratic Party Chairman Ted O'Brien resigned from his political position on December 4, saying he needs to spend more time practicing law and pursuing his personal interests. Also returning to private life: H. Carl McCall, the Democratic gubernatorial hopeful who finished third in Monroe County behind Governor Pataki and a local billionaire running on a kooky third-party line. McCall, the state comptroller, told the Associated Press he intends to serve on several corporate boards after he leaves that post at the end of year --- presumably not to get back in touch with his party's core constituency.

--- Compiled by Chris Busby from news reports, interviews, and drum-and-bugle-corps magazines.