SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Joe Lees doesn’t work for the City of Syracuse or Myrtle Hill Cemetery. Yet, he spent his Tuesday morning mowing its overgrown grass.
Lees says, “It’s the way we would like to see it maintained, but we do it ourselves.”
With his own law mower in his truck, Lees makes the drive to Syracuse from Weedsport with his longtime partner, Melanie Harris.
Harris takes care of the trimming around gravestones of 20 family members, including her grandparents, aunt and father.
Harris’ mother plans to be buried next to him.
She says, “Heaven forbid, if anything happened to her, I wouldn’t want to bring her up here in a cemetery that looks like this.”
Three weeks ago, the City’s Director of Codes told NewsChannel 9 that he would hire an additional crew to mow, using the cemetery’s equipment.
Some grass has grown ankle-high, which is better than the knee-high grass a private company, hired by the City of Syracuse, cut down on June 14th. Since, the cemetery sexton says she hasn’t seen the mowers she loaned the city’s codes department getting used.
A spokesperson for the City of Syracuse says the promise will be kept. He says, “The City continues to offer a helping hand to Myrtle Hill Cemetery. We don’t have dedicated staff for this site, so we hired a crew with less than two week’s notice to do the initial mowing on the cemetery on June 14. Our summer hires finished orientation today and will begin mowing for the summer this week.”
The city owns the cemetery, but it’s up to the cemetery board and association to maintain it. The current sexton says the organization is broke after years of mismanagement and can’t afford to hire a maintenance company.
For Joe Lees and Melanie Harris, the help can’t come soon enough.
Harris says, “Instead of focusing on my relatives, we’re focusing on getting it mowed. We shouldn’t have to do that.”