Phil Trexler

Glendale Cemetery came alive Friday morning.

Amid the rolling hills and historic stone buildings on grounds where many of Akron’s favorite sons and daughters rest in peace, the present embraced the cemetery’s past.

It proved an appropriate commemoration of the venerable cemetery’s 175th anniversary, one that drew several hundred onlookers and guests.

With a drum beat off in the distance, a procession led by a 19th century horse-drawn hearse from the Billow Company made its way toward the steps of the broken ashlar stone face of the Civil War Memorial Chapel.

Under near cloudless skies, men dressed in period military wool uniforms and carrying the nation’s colors were closely followed by dark-clothed women, some wearing black lace veils to hide their faces, as they escorted a ceremonial casket to the chapel.

The half-mile walk by re-enactors from the 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Company G Living History Association — along side modern-day students from Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts — started on Perkins Square, near the Ohio & Erie Canal, the historic heart of Akron.

Columbia, Gem of the Ocean, once considered our nation’s anthem, concluded the march through the expansive cemetery, which counts veterans from every U.S. war, many of the city’s most prominent citizens and everyday people among its 38,000 grave sites.

Friday’s ceremony was hosted by Friends of Historic Glendale Cemetery, its president, Gregory Bean, and anniversary committee co-chairs Mike and Mary Stark.

Mayor Don Plusquellic, standing on a landing outside the chapel, noted the cemetery’s rich history and its monuments and mausoleums that stand in honor and as “expressions of grief.”

“But they were also built to honor and pay tribute and to preserve the memories of the men and women who built Akron,” the mayor said. “This is especially true when it comes to honoring those who have served our country in uniform.”

Plusquellic and ceremony moderator David Lieberth each noted the cemetery’s history book of famous residents — Seiberling, Buchtel, Hower — all of whom helped Akron in its formidable years. Those names now adorn city streets, schools and parks.

The mayor made special note of the efforts of former City Councilman John Frank, whose work helped maintain the cemetery as an Akron landmark.

“Glendale, I would argue, allows us to remember the service of those people who committed their lives to this community in many other ways,” Plusquellic said.

Summit County Executive Russ Pry told the audience that those buried in Glendale serve as a reminder of the city’s emergence in America and symbolize the contributions of the tens of thousands of immigrants who settled in Akron and made significant contributions.

“Behind each tombstone is the story of a family, and in some cases, families that have spanned five or six generations in Summit County,” Pry said. “Glendale is not just a burial place for the dead. It is very much a living history of our whole community and its past.”

Pry noted the historic chapel behind him as well as the turn-of-the-century buildings in the foreground: the caretaker’s home, the business office and the striking 60-foot high peninsula stone Bell Tower that once clanged at every funeral procession and at the cemetery’s 6 p.m. daily closing.

“In this fast-paced, modern world, Glendale continues to perform as its founders intended: to be a place of respite and reassurance for all of us,” Pry said.

Guests heard era music from the Freedom Brass Band of Northeast Ohio and an energetic rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, sung by Carla Davis and her son, Jason Davis.

Capping the ceremony, re-enactors from the Actors’ Summit Theater took the audience back to circa 1839, when the cemetery first opened. They provided recreations of speeches given by Col. Simon Perkins, Brevet Maj. Gen. Alvin Coe Voris, Mary Ingersoll Tod Evans and Dr. Jedediah Commins, whose son’s death at age 20 led him to push for the cemetery’s creation.

Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or ptrexler@thebeaconjournal.com. He can be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PhilTrexler