25 July 2009
Restoration Project at St. Catherine of Siena Cemetery
When I first visited this cemetery a few months ago I was disappointed to find out that the gates were closed and I could not gain access. The cemetery initially had the appearance of neglect which could partly be attributed to my disappointment and lack of access. I decided I would email the St. Catherine of Siena Parish which is associated with the cemetery. I would like to take this time to apologize publicly to the parish for the accusatory tone I took with my initial email where I stated that I saw the cemetery in a state of disrepair and dilapidation. I was quickly corrected by Deacon Albert Dizon who has been a wonderful help in my research despite my initial accusations. So in light of the information provided by Deacon Albert I decided I would visit the cemetery again and correct my errors in judgement. On my second visit I was glad to see people hard at work clearing dead branches and brush from the cemetery grounds. This is just one of a few measures the parish has taken to assist with the upkeep of the cemetery grounds. They have also hired a number of goats and sheep to assist with weed abatement and it was even covered in the Oakland Tribune. They are currently working E’Clampus Vitas to repair markers as well as organizing volunteer clean up days open to people of all ages to assist with clean up and maintenance of the cemetery grounds. This is a beautiful cemetery which has unfortunately experienced some vandalism no doubt from people with little or no regard for the deceased. I hope to fully explore soon and has a rich history of pioneers, beautiful architecture and that old world feel that attracts me to most of these places. It is said that Don Juan Salvio Pacheco co-founder of Concord is buried here as well as Sam (Simon) Rodia who designed and built the famous Watts Towers in Los Angeles to name a couple. The cemetery gates remain closed, however, access is available anytime by borrowing a key from the Martinez Police Department or from St. Catherine parish office at 1125 Ferry St. between 8:30am and 5pm - Monday to Friday, except holidays. The St. Catherine of Siena Parish itself also shares a rich history in our area and in 1999 their 125th Anniversary. This cemetery is a must visit for any cemetery enthusiast or just anyone wanting to take themselves back to a time long ago. I applaud the efforts of the parish and hope to be able to contribute personally to their restoration project. Again I would like to thank Deacon Albert Dizon for his time and effort contributed to this article. Without his assistance this article would have been nothing more than speculation. So thank you Deacon Albert for providing the facts on this project.