Church builds memorial garden for remains of all Southold residents

JULIE LANE PHOTO | The memorial garden at Southold First Presbyterian Church.

Just east of Southold First Presbyterian Church’s cemetery a memorial garden is taking shape that will provide a site for the cremated remains of parishioners and other town residents.

“Anybody in Southold can be buried here,” Mr. Adler said about the church’s cemetery and its memorial garden for cremated remains.

“Our cemetery is running out of space,” committee member Herb Adler said about the reason for pushing ahead with the garden for cremated remains.

The idea has been on the minds of members of the session, the governing body of the church, for several years. But only in the past year has work begun to make it a reality.

“We wanted it to reflect the old cemetery and not jar with it,” Mr. Adler said during an interview at the church manse Monday morning. An original sketch for the garden was drafted several years ago, but it was “so elaborate that it was impractical,” he said. This year, committee members invited several local site designers to submit plans. They chose a design by Loren Fitzsimons of The Garden Studio in Southold for its simplicity, he said

“When we saw it, it was just ‘Wow,’” Mr. Adler said. Inspired by the designs of the gardens at the Palace of Versailles outside of Paris, Ms. Fitzsimons used crosses and circles, a Christian symbol of life, to create a design that is in keeping with the vision committee members had for the site, he said.

By next spring, phase one of the project should be completed with 24 columbaria, stone structures with niches that will hold urns containing cremated remains. As the need develops in years to come, there will eventually be enough columbaria to accommodate 1,536 urns, he said.

The 200 foot by 40 foot site south of the church and directly east of the cemetery, will be planted with Bradford pear trees and black gum trees. A strip that runs the length of the garden will be planted with perennials. A small pool with a simple spray fountain will be installed in the center of the plot. It’s all planned to be low maintenance, Mr. Adler said.
Stone benches will be placed on either side of the plot, providing visitors a place to sit and reflect, he said.

To honor her husband, Dr. John Campbell, Virginia Campbell, formerly of Southold and now living in Hilton Head, S.C., made a $90,000 gift that will pay part of the estimated $150,000 cost of the garden. The Campbells left Southold in 1999 to retire to the South, where Ms. Campbell was raised.

Still, she said about Southold, “That’s home. When you raise your children in a place, it becomes home.” They lived in the town for 44 years until Dr. Campbell retired from his medical practice.

Dr. Campbell died in 2001. His son, Lee, is designing a plaque for the memorial garden honoring his father.
“I am so pleased,” Ms. Campbell said about the design of the garden. She visited Southold in September and had an opportunity to see the plans, she said.

Committee member Vickie DeFriest is chairing a fundraising committee to raise the additional funds needed for the project.

Families who choose to have the cremated remains of their loved ones placed in the columbaria will pay approximately $1,350 and that will include perpetual care, Mr. Adler said.

The garden also will feature memorial stones in recognition of people who have been buried elsewhere, but whose families want to have a place in Southold to honor them.

Those who wish to contribute to the fund for development of the memorial garden may send checks payable to the Congregation Society to First Presbyterian Church of Southold, P.O Box 207, Southold, N.Y. 11971.

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