RAVENNA TWP. — Ray Taylor was at Grandview Memorial Park tending to his duties as cemetery sexton when he saw a woman crying.

It turned out the woman, who had several family members buried at Grandview, was shedding tears of joy.

“I’m just so happy to see how it looks out here,” the woman told Taylor. “This place never looked so good since it opened.”

More than a year and a half ago, township trustees assumed responsibility for Grandview, the formerly private cemetery on Lakewood Road whose owners, Ted and Myndi Martin, were sent to prison for defrauding customers. Now, township officials say Grandview is showing a distinct improvement.

Monuments, once dingy, surrounded by shrubs or in danger of falling over, have been shored up and painted. The mausoleum has seen dramatic upgrades, including solar panels to power the lights. Thousands of cemetery records are being digitized. And people are buying plots again.

“It’s par to none,” Trustee Pat Artz said. “It’s probably one of the prettiest cemeteries around.”

The Martins, as well as the late Sheridan Rhinehart, who founded the private cemetery in 1966, billed Grandview as a “one-stop shop” where people purchased other items to go with their cemetery plots, such as grave markers, caskets, vaults and the eventual opening and closing of their graves. State law required the Martins to establish escrow accounts to pay for those items, as well as to offset the cost of ongoing maintenance at the cemetery.

But that wasn’t done, and the township wasn’t able to honor those pre-need arrangements. That left plot owners scrambling to finalize arrangements for their eventual deaths.

For nearly 200 years, Maple Grove Cemetery was the township cemetery, even after the site on North Chestnut Street became part of the city. About 20 years ago, trustees went to court to force the city to jointly own the cemetery with them, and a board of city and township officials now oversees the cemetery. Mark Gabriel, who was a city councilman when the cemetery became a joint effort, now serves as superintendent of Maple Grove.

When the township was forced by law to take over Grandview, trustees turned to Gabriel to make sure policies at the two cemeteries were the same. They also put Taylor, who also serves as street superintendent, in charge of Grandview. Taylor previously worked on Rootstown’s road crew, helping maintain Homeland Cemetery there.

“Thank God for him,” Artz said. “We hired him because he was already ready to go.”

Taylor credited his crew of four other workers who help him maintain the cemetery. Several improvements, some with high price tags, were made at Grandview. The cemetery still has imagery from various religions, a holdover from its days as a private cemetery.

A new roof was put on the mausoleum, which still bears the title of the “temple of Christianity.” Pews were refinished, new paneling was put on the walls and the ceiling was improved. The floor was refinished through a technique called “easy teaking,” which made the floor resemble a marble surface. Solar panels were put up to power the lights inside. Taylor’s mother even made and donated two silk floral bouquets inside the building.

A storage building for the cemetery’s equipment was built behind the chapel, with a sidewalk extended to that structure. A $16,000 “casket lifter” was purchased to lift caskets in the upper spots in the cemetery.

“We’ve used it probably 15 times already,” he said.

Various statues and monuments on the cemetery grounds were painted and upgraded.

“The veterans memorial was falling over,” Taylor said. “We brought in a crane, lifted it up and re-poured the foundation.”

The dingy monument also got a fresh coat of paint, and now is a bright white.

The Holy Quran monument, located by the “Islamic Garden,” is noticed by many cemetery visitors, who think the stone statue is new. Taylor said the marker was always present, but its view is no longer obstructed by large bushes, so many people are seeing it for the first time.

Improvements also are being made on the digital front. Clerk Sarah Lund-Goldstein has been hard at work, scanning 27 boxes of records. She expects to complete the other six boxes by September. She estimates that the cemetery has had nearly 4,000 burials since 1966.

In addition to computerizing the files, Lund-Goldstein is putting the records on FindAGrave.com, with 3,385 graves listed now, and the rest expected to be complete by the end of the year. The listings are expected to include GPS data and photos of the graves, allowing families to find burial locations outside of business hours.

The work is supported by an award from the Ohio Historical Records Advisory Board, using funds from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission, National Archives and Records Administration.

Taylor said he is now looking for grant money for signs to label various sections of the cemetery for visitors.

Artz, who once talked of selling Grandview, said she still isn’t thrilled to see the township in the cemetery business. The township budgets $100,000 a year for Grandview, and she knows that purchases of plots don’t cover that cost.

“The truth of the matter is that cemeteries are a losing proposition,” she said. “We’re constantly putting money out. Once you run out of land, it’s really a losing proposition.”

But with a large parcel and many graves still available, Taylor doesn’t think the cemetery will reach that point any time soon.

Although many visitors pay compliments to Taylor and his staff when they visit, he said the biggest compliment comes when people decide to buy plots to bury a loved one, or a pet.

“Pet Haven is going crazy,” he said.