In March 2000 the Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead designated a portion of the Church grounds, integrating the existing graveyard, as the Memorial Garden.
The Memorial Garden is intended as a quiet, landscaped setting for contemplation and remembrance to be maintained in keeping with the spirit and character of the Church's original graveyard and monuments placed there over the centuries.
The Remembrance Circle (Columbarium) within the Memorial Garden is used by the Church to inter ashes of the deceased. A stone "Interment Monument," containing the names of those .individuals interred, is located near the Columbarium and in front of a stone pathway containing Memorial Stepping Stones that may be engraved to memorialize individuals.
A plaque recording the founders and donors to the Memorial Garden is located within the Church building .
The development of the Memorial Garden was authorized by vote of the congregation on June 23,1996 at the Annual Meeting of the Church with the provision that funds be raised and expended outside the normal operating budget of the Church.
Landscaping began in 2001 and all phases of the original project were completed in 2005.
On November 21, 2013, the Board of Trustees of the Church voted to enhance the Garden by offering donor the opportunity to purchase and have engraved Memorial Stepping Stones for the purpose of generating funds to maintain the long-term financial resources of the Garden.
The Memorial Garden is a limited resource of the Church and memorialization of those interned shall be on a permanent Interment Monument set amidst the other monuments of Church members from past centuries.
Eligibility for interment and memorialization is viewed as a benefit of Church Membership and is limited to Church Members, former Members, and members of their immediate families.
An individual eligible for interment may have their ashes buried in the Columbarium. Interment also includes a brass plate bearing the individual's name, to be placed on the Interment Monument, maintenance of appropriate records, and perpetual care of the Memorial Garden.
The stone path leading to the Remembrance Circle contains space for a limited number of Memorial Stepping Stones that may be engraved as a memorial to an individual or individuals.
Both members and non-members may donate and, upon content approval, have a Memorial Stepping Stone placed by the Church.
Individuals and families may be memorialized through the engraving of a Memorial Stepping Stone. Wording and design content shall be in keeping with the spirit of the Garden and graveyard as set forth in the Operating Plan.
Memorial Stepping Stones are not intended for memorialization of organizations, groups, causes, ideologies and the like.
The chairperson of the B&G Committee should initially be consulted to discuss placement location and the feasibility of the size and design of the engraving. Final approval of location, design and content shall be made by the BOT, by majority vote during a duly constituted meeting and in consideration of the above content intentions and any recommendations of the B&G Committee.
Timeline of the Memorial Garden
1729-1888 The Church graveyard was originally situated below the existing Nichols Wing and in the area now generally covered by the brick patio. It is estimated that 257 burials occurred between 1729 and 1888, with the majority during the 18th century and only 3 after the Civil War. Most of those interred were born as Englishmen; 10 in the 1600s.
1959-1960 In 1959 the church decided to build the Nichols Wing and requested that the Massachusetts General Court allow relocation of the memorial stones and any possible remains. The request was granted in 1960. The Marblehead Cemetery Department relocated a few possible remains into a memorial tomb and replaced the memorials. The new construction then occurred over the original graveyard.
Spring 1995 Under the leadership of the Reverend Charles Wilson, Minister; co-chairs Carol Stack Fine and Chris Greene, Memorial Garden Committee Chair, meetings were held to develop a site for interring ashes of church members. Joseph and Mildred Quill, former church members then living in Connecticut, gave the first donation of $1,000 toward the project. [The Quills later relocated back to Marblehead and the Church].
June 1995 At the Annual Meeting of the Church, the congregation ratified the creation of a Memorial Garden and voted the placement of a donors’ plaque.
Rev. Wilson gathered the congregation at the Memorial Garden site. The design for Phase I (created by Bradford Greene; father of Chris Greene) was presented, along with a gift catalog to encourage donations. The first priority for Phase I was to build the Remembrance Circle (also referred to as the Columbarium) where ashes would be interred in biodegradable containers, allowing for June 1996continuing availability of burial sites.
June 1997 Approximately 40 “Founders” donated the funds needed to complete Phase I of the Garden. The remains of Maj. Emmons Hamlin Turner, Phyllis Wright Turner, Marshall Palmer, Dorothy C. Birdseye Palmer, and Stephen Fine were interred at that time.
September 1999 The committee chair was passed from Carol Stack Fine to Lisa Gery.
March 2000 The Board of Trustees and Minister, the Reverend Mary Harrington, approved the operating plan for the Memorial Garden.
May 2001 Phase II of the Memorial Garden was dedicated. Funding was provided by the Julia Gery Foundation (a charitable foundation established in memory of Mike and Lisa Gery’s daughter, who died shortly after birth in 1995). Phase II work was completed during the summer of 2000. Included were the addition of a new brick path along the rear of the church grounds, a rebuilt stone wall at the church’s rear boundary, a second bench and arbor at the Remembrance Circle, an irrigation system, and several new plantings.
June 2001 The Board of Trustees and congregation voted to not renew the lease of the YMCA preschool, allowing the church to incorporate the YMCA play area into further Garden development. An anonymous pledge of $50,000 over the next 5 years was provided to help compensate for the loss of YMCA rent.
A memorial plaque was installed in the sanctuary listing the Founders of the Memorial Garden. A granite memorial stone was installed outside the Remembrance Circle displaying bronze plaques for all those whose ashes are interred at the site. The decorative bronze inlay of the memorial stone was designed by Chris Greene from motifs found on the original headstones of the graveyard.
June 2002 The functions of the Memorial Garden Committee were incorporated into the Building and Grounds Committee, with co-chairs Mike and Lisa Gery.
A dedication was held for the newly created brick patio area outside the Holyoke Room. A brick path was installed along the side of the church, allowing for handicapped access from the street to a new handicapped-accessible entrance to the building. Two benches were placed November 2003in the patio. Plaques on the benches record their dedication to Rev. Charles Wilson, Minister Emeritus, and the Julia Gery Foundation for funding the work. Landscaping and irrigation were installed in the grounds previously occupied by the YMCA play structure.
August 2005 Phase III, the final Memorial Garden development phase, was completed. Phase III improved the remaining unfinished church grounds that surrounded the Memorial Garden, as well as the areas behind and along the rear of the Nichols Room. A raised planting bed was created between the patio and the Martin tomb, made possible by a stone wall that was installed along the bottom of the raised bed (placed at a low height to create an additional seating area. This work was also funded by the Julia Gery Foundation.
September 2021 The committee chair was passed from Lisa Gery to Mary Gardner.
For information about the old gravestones that are to be found in the Memorial Garden, see the page on Church History, and the reference therein to a detailed Church history authored by Mike Gery and edited by Jo Ann Augeri Silva.