Tod Cemetery builds ‘serene’ garden for cremation

Tod Cemetery builds area for families that choose cremation

By Kalea Hall


A cemetery beyond a century-old is building a new experience for its future clients who choose cremation.

A calm, serene and peaceful $700,000 memorial and columbarium garden for cremated remains is under construction at Tod Homestead Cemetery on Belmont Avenue and expected to be completed by October.

“We could do this [cemetery business] for a long time without doing this, but we also wanted to be useful to the people of Youngstown,” said Sallie Tod Dutton, president of The Tod Homestead Cemetery Association. “We want to stay with the trends.”

That trend is cremation — an alternative to burial that has been on the rise for decades with 3.56 percent of remains cremated in 1960 and 43.2 percent by 2012. The projected percentage of cremation rate is 48.8 percent by 2017, according to the Cremation Association of America.

For the past five to six years, the Tod Homestead Cemetery Association has talked about the need to create something outside of mausoleums and traditional burial for cremated remains. The cemetery averages 40 cremations a year and 300 burials.

“I started in 1977, and back then, cremations for us were extremely rare,” said Ken Sommers, superintendent of the cemetery.”

It was decided to create a 2-acre columbarium memorial garden with a fountain, landscaping, walkways and 10 low-profile structures for a total of 960 spaces for cremation remains. A columbarium is a wall of companion spaces or niches that hold the urns. Each niche in the Tod columbarium will be 20 inches deep with a piece of granite over it.

“It’s going to be very unique,” said Paul Ricciuti, architect and trustee for the association. “It will look very composed and structured.”

Outside of the columbarium, the garden will be a place for reflection.

The Tod Cemetery has been in operation since 1908 with its first burial in 1911. George Tod, son of Ohio’s Civil War governor, David Tod, dedicated 256 acres of the Tod family’s Brier Hill Farm to the people of Youngstown for a cemetery. Today, the cemetery has 200 acres, and 90 of those are developed with approximately 36,000 grave sites.

Warren Manning was hired by Volney Rogers to do the landscaping for the cemetery grounds. In designing the garden, the association wanted to keep the “feel of the landscape.”

“It’s kind of a natural, unattached landscaping,” Sommers said. “So we are not really interfering with nature; we are a a part of nature.”

The new Tod memorial garden is taking the place of the “sunken garden” at the cemetery grounds. Cleveland-based Behnke Landscape Architecture assisted in the design of the garden, and the general contractor on the project is Marucci and Gaffney Excavating of Youngstown.

“We have to expand to our market,” Ricciuti said. “We think we can expand to [outside areas with this].”

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