St. Michael’s Cemetery, along with Creter Vault Construction Company, has built a Wall of Remembrance to honor those who were buried at the cemetery without a monument or memorial of any kind. The wall is an expansive 10 feet high and 200 feet wide structure with over 4,000 names etched in honor and features Dakota Mahogany and Pearl Rose granite, custom built stone columns, a stamped concrete and brick paver walkway and custom granite benches for seating – all surrounded by a magnificent landscape.
It also features a life-size granite statue of a praying woman placing flowers on a grave. This beautiful memorial is being donated by St. Michael’s Church & Cemetery and will be dedicated on June 4 at 3 p.m.
St. Michael’s Cemetery is owned by St. Michael’s Church at West 99th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan. St. Michael’s Cemetery was founded in 1852 by The Reverend Thomas McClure Peters.
The Rev. Peters found appropriate land for a cemetery in Newtown, Long Island, now in East Elmhurst.
The purpose of St. Michael’s Cemetery was to provide a dignified final resting for people of all faiths and a place for parishioners of St. Michael’s and members of other religious and charitable institutions.
These religious and charitable institutions purchased plots of land in the cemetery to bury the poor with the intent of maintaining their property in perpetuity and to continue to bury in these lots without a memorial or monument. Unfortunately, these institutions were not able to keep up with perpetual care payments and stopped using the land. St. Michael’s was falling into disrepair from World War II to the late 1980s and these lots were becoming unsightly.
St. Michael’s Cemetery began to improve in the early 1990s and has since become a real asset to the community. In the early 21st century, St. Michael’s management began to notice an increase in genealogy research by families trying to find the location of deceased relatives. Increasingly, families wanted a way to memorialize members of their family that had been long forgotten. Due to the nature of the burials in the church lots, it was not possible to place headstones or other memorials.
In 2012, cemetery management began planning a large memorial that would become a sanctuary for those who were searching for long lost relatives; a place to reflect on the memories of those that helped make this city and this country what it is today. One of those relatives was Pete Smith, currently residing in The Netherlands, who reached out to the cemetery in 2012 trying to locate his Great Uncle James Hoffman. St. Michael’s was able to locate the records of his great uncle; however the family was hoping that there would be some memorial in the cemetery.
The cemetery staff informed Mr. Smith that they would be building a memorial wall and his great uncle’s name would be on it. When the wall was built and the inscriptions completed, they sent a picture of the completed wall to him and the following was his response:
“This is really great! After so many years of not knowing it means a lot to our family to have a place where he can be honored. More than 72 years he didn’t have a name and was missing [sic] by his mother, father, brothers and sister and other family members. More than 72 years nobody knows what happened to him.
With his name on the wall of remembrance, it feels like a kind of resurrection, it feels like he is back in the arms of our family. Thank you, thank you very much. On behalf of the Hoffman family, Pete, We hope that you will join us on Saturday, June 4, at 3 pm for a dedication ceremony and refreshments to reveal ‘The Wall of Remembrance,’” said Ed Horn, community relations director for St. Michael’s Cemetery.