After a severe loss of funds, a more than 100-year old cemetery is on the brink of shutting down in Long Beach.
Sunnyside Cemetery, founded 112 years ago with more than 16,000 people buried beneath its surface, will close its gates forever come August.
The cemetery, located at 1095 E Willow St., has a history of neglect.
“For 19 years we’ve been in contact with the city of Long Beach, asking them to please take the cemetery over. And we have been denied time after time after time,” said Linda Meador, who sits on the small board of directors for the cemetery.
Sunnyside Cemetery is the second oldest burial ground in Long Beach, and a historical landmark.
The first fire chief is buried there. There’s a section of civil war veterans, including a medal of honor recipient. A former lieutenant governor is buried there as well. But Meador says offers from the city to take over haven’t made sense.
The city’s economic development department said they’ve tried to work with the board, but that the board recently declined a $250,000 grant. Meador said the last meeting she had with city leaders was in April – and then she heard nothing but silence from the city.
Just beyond the gates of Sunnyside sits a city cemetery. The grass is noticeably greener on the other side.
The department of parks and recreation takes care of it. That’s what Meador wants to see happen at Sunnyside.
“If it closes, we close the gates and I guess the grass grows up and there’s no maintenance, which would be a real shame,” she said.
The cemetery is out of money, she said. After former owners were convicted in the 90s of embezzling half a million dollars of the endowment the foundation uses for upkeep, they’ve been relying on just a couple thousand dollars a month to pay bills and one gardener.
“He’s the only paid employee and we supplement the maintenance with court-ordered community service workers,” Meador said.
“To me this embodies Long Beach and its diversity and its culture,” Ryan Hughes, a volunteer at the cemetery, said.
Hughes is a self-described history buff and worries about the future taking all this history away.
“It makes me sad. I see dirt on graves and graves that are falling into the ground. I see people that have put their last 20 some years of their life trying to make this better,” Hughes said.
There’s still time to change the cemetery’s future. The foundation at the cemetery really wants to work with the city so the city can take over the cemetery itself.
The city says it’s not going to let the final resting place close its doors and degrade itself. The problem is, nobody’s signed anything to make that happen.