MASSILLON — Once a year, James Bozzacco makes the trip from the Columbus area to Massillon to clean his family’s mausoleum.

Around Memorial Day, he brings a 5-gallon bucket of water to scrub the floors. He oils the creaking hinges and lock of the entrance and clears out all the cobwebs.

As a young boy, Bozzacco and his father routinely kept up the family mausoleum. Now as an adult, the 1973 Washington High School graduate feels it is his duty to continue the tradition.

He made a special trip Saturday to look at the Putman mausoleum after learning a tree fell during a storm that blew through Stark County Thursday evening. Two tornadoes were confirmed in Stark County, one in neighboring Perry Township.

The tree in Massillon Cemetery knocked down the Putman family name and date that hung over the mausoleum’s entrance. Three of the four columns were also destroyed.

When the tree fell, it took a piece of history with it.

“It’s a shame,” Bozzacco said, adding it is unlikely the mausoleum will be returned to its original state. “It was a magnificent structure. It could have been worse. Luckily, none of the damage was on the inside.”

The Massillon Cemetery, established by community leaders in 1846, is the site of many historical graves. More than 24,000 decedents are buried on the property.

Bozzacco’s great-grandmother, Clara Putman, established the mausoleum for the family after the death of his great-grandfather, J.C. Putman, in 1903. His great-grandparents owned the Bee Hive Cash Store, a successful dry goods establishment in the late 1800s.

In 1899, the Bee Hive Cash Store was destroyed in Massillon’s first electrical fire, said Margy Vogt, a local historian and author. The fire took out a block on the north side of West Main, which today is Lincoln Way W, Vogt said.

The Bee Hive originally stood at Main and Clay streets, now Lincoln Way W and First Street NW.

The business was moved to a temporary location until the new building was ready, Vogt said, before closing its doors in 1928.

Bozzacco’s mother, Clara (Underhill) Bozzacco, worked at the Massillon Museum as the secretary in the 1970s and ’80s. His uncle, Arthur P. Underhill, served as Massillon’s solicitor for a time and was practicing attorney before his death in 1994.

The mausoleum is the resting place for at least seven of the family members bearing the names Putman, Underhill and Bozzacco. Multiple slots inside the structure are still available. The most recent burial was James Bozzacco’s mother, Clara, in 2012.

The tree struck the portico of the mausoleum leaving behind ruins of sandstone and fallen limbs.

Sarah Betz, a resident of Plain Township, frequently strolls the cemetery when she comes to Massillon to visit a friend who lives close to the property.

Betz developed an interest for urban exploration and photographs old and abandon buildings. As she explored, she became interested in photographing the architecture of headstones and mausoleums as well.

The Putman mausoleum caught her attention, she said.

When she saw a post on Facebook about the damage Saturday morning, she decided to see for herself that evening.

“I always thought the Massillon Cemetery has such beautiful things to offer,” Betz said. “For me, it was heartbreaking. It was something I enjoyed seeing. Driving through the cemetery was a peaceful thing.”

Erin Kirby, the head caretaker at the Massillon Cemetery, said he noticed the storm destruction Friday morning when he was making his rounds in the cemetery. Kirby said he enjoyed looking at the architecture of the building.

“This just tore me up when I saw this,” Kirby said. “It was gorgeous.”

Friday afternoon Kirby used a chainsaw to cut the branches laying across the paved path in the cemetery. The large maple tree took out a pine tree on its way down, Kirby said.

Luckily, he added, the tree landed in the grass between headstones and didn’t damage any other memorials.

For more then 45 years, Kirby has worked for the cemetery as a grave digger and caretaker. He mows the lawn, removes weeds and takes care of damage to headstones. Whenever he can, Kirby fixes headstones that have been chipped or broken.

The damage to the mausoleum, however, is beyond his skills.

Kirby said he inspects trees in the cemetery. However, the maple tree that fell during the storm didn’t appear to be an issue.

The cemetery has been operating on limited funds and manpower for a number of years.

Members of the Massillon Cemetery Association, which owns the property, contacted the family to make them aware of the damage. The city does not own the property.

The Massillon Cemetery Association is comprised of two people — Kirby and office manager Rose Buxton. Kirby is the only full-time staff member.

In the warmer months, Buxton said, volunteers help Kirby with the upkeep of the cemetery, including raking leaves and picking up fallen branches and limbs, which now litter the grounds after last week’s storm.

“It’s hard because of the cold weather,” Buxton added.

Anyone looking to get involved at the cemetery can stop at the main office at 1827 Erie St. S inside the cemetery gates, Buxton said.

In the coming weeks, Bozzacco again will make the two-hour drive back to his hometown to clear the fallen sandstone from the grass in front of his family’s mausoleum. He has been taking care of the building since his father, Francis Bozzacco, died in 2001.

Though it likely won’t be restored to its original state, Bozzacco said, he will ensure the inside of the mausoleum isn’t leaking.

“Some people ask me why I bother, but it seems like the thing to do,” Bozzacco said. “It gives me a chance to get back to Massillon for a day, and it’s a tradition. My dad always did it, and I figured if he could do it, I would do it.”

 

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