Ridges Cemeteries Project Inspires Work Elsewhere
An Ohio Department of
Mental Health official's visit to Athens helps motivate Columbus' Twin
Valley Behavioral Health Center to launch its own reclamation project
below is from Franklin County's Alcohol, Drug, and Mental
Health Board's (ADAMH)
Newsletter, ADAMH eNews, the
Twin Valley Behavioral Health Center's
Cemetery Reclamation Project
Dignity can be afforded even in the afterlife, often through cemetery
reclamation, which is the process of restoring forgotten grave sites. Twin
Valley Behavioral Health (TVBH) Center began its own cemetery reclamation
project on July 7 with their Memorial Stone Dedication Ceremony. The
ceremony was held at the largest of three graveyards on TVBH's property.
Over a thousand deceased residents are buried at the location.
Chief Executive Officer of TVBH, Bob Short, began the ceremony and was
followed by Ohio Department of Mental Health (ODMH) Director, Sandra
Stephenson. Cemetery reclamation became a passion for Stephenson after she
visited cemeteries in Athens, near the former location of the state
psychiatric hospital. Those graveyards have been improved to include
inviting nature trails and informational signage.
During her Athens trip, Stephenson saw the
welcoming environment and learned of several family members who have located
deceased relatives, replaced their numbered stones with proper headstones,
and visit to pay their respects. "That started my very emotional experience
with cemetery reclamation," said Stephenson, who recounted the
story of a young girl named Viola. Stephenson keeps
a picture of Viola to remind her of the story of a patient from long ago who
deserves to be remembered.
Stephenson added that she was not worried about lack of funding halting the
project because it is volunteer-based. TVBH Director of Volunteer Services
Maureen Fahy and TVBH Chief Operations Officer David Blahnik are
spearheading the organizing efforts in the reclamation process for the three
TVBH cemetery sites.
Brandon Lofton, a Bishop Hartley High School junior, also will participate
in the reclamation effort. Lofton is taking part in the effort for his Eagle
Scout Service project.
Several small stones have no names, but a string of numbers. Lofton has
volunteered to clean these gravestones and catalog the numbers with names in
hospital records to give an identity to those who are gone but not
"Lofton's renaming project fits with our ultimate goal to recognize the
courage of past state hospital residents who lived with mental illness and
inspired future understanding," said Short. "We can provide proper
identification of the cemeteries and honor them as sacred grounds."
ADAMH Medical Director, Dr. Kathy Burns also attended the ceremony. She
added, "The deceased residents are getting the respect they deserve. Even
after death, we can find a way to honor their lives."
Appalachian Behavioral Health
Care, 100 Hospital Drive, Athens OH 45701
Phone: 740-593-7424 e-mail: