Forest Lawn is one of the world’s most historic cemeteries. Located in Buffalo, New York, this historic American cemetery is situated on roughly 269 acres of unmatched natural beauty, with hills, valleys, lakes, and streams, and is filled with sculptural masterpieces. The final resting place for many famous people, residents of Forest Lawn include Millard Fillmore, the 13th President of the United States; Dr. Frederick Cook, who discovered the North Pole; Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm; Musician Rick James; and Red Jacket, Chieftain of the Seneca Indians. Forest Lawn was also one the first professionally landscaped cemeteries in the country, with the first interment taking place in 1850. There are now over 163,000 permanent residents in this nonprofit, nonsectarian cemetery.
As of 2016, the majority of new memorials in Forest Lawn are required to be manufactured from Barre Gray© granite. The Forest Lawn Group of Cemeteries includes four cemeteries: Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York; Lakeside Cemetery in Hamburg, New York; St. Matthew’s Cemetery in West Seneca, New York; and Williamsville Cemetery.
In a 2017 interview with BGA Executive Director Doug Grahn, Forest Lawn president Joseph P. Dispenza noted: “Stone is still at the core of the only truly permanent and perpetual proof of existence…and not a stone along the roadside site of a tragic accident and death, but rather stone in the only protected environment in the nation – a cemetery.” It is with that in mind that memorials remain a major focus for Forest Lawn.
As with other cemetery executives, Dispenza has seen the increase, especially over the past decade, of imported stone or stone from an unknown source, sold online, and in many cases with sub-par, high-volume, inferior workmanship, when compared to the past. He believes that it is not in the best interest of families or the cemetery to compromise the future of the only absolute proof of a life lived – the quality and permanence of the memorials to those interred within the gates of Forest Lawn, or at any other cemetery.
Dispenza explains, “Our obligation as stewards of cemeteries is sacred and profound – unlike that of any other business. All those who came before us at our cemeteries have made a promise to provide perpetual care to the souls interred here, and we have assumed this sacred obligation when we agreed to serve the cemetery. At some point in the past, a family purchased burial with the belief that it would be maintained and made accessible to anyone who wishes to visit that space. They also purchased a monument with the belief that it would be a permanent memorial. But if that purchase was made decades ago, in many cases, the firm that sold the memorial and/or the manufacturer are no longer in business. It’s important that when the 2nd or 3rd generation of a family visits a loved one’s gravesite, they are not disappointed by how the stone has weathered or has deteriorated due to the inferior quality of the materials, or workmanship which did not utilize time-tested tools and techniques.”
For these reasons, in 2016 Forest Lawn Group decided to amend its rules and regulations regarding memorials, including the issues of color, quality, and who is permitted to perform installation and repair of memorials in their cemeteries. As Dispenza describes it, “Since recommitting to the historic integrity that helped to place us on the National Register of Historic Places, Forest Lawn only allows Barre Gray© granite in our ‘historic sections’. That means, of our 269 acres, non – Barre Gray is only permitted in approximately 35 acres. Even in areas where we once allowed colored, high-polished granite, we no longer do so.” This story is the perfect example of why Barre Gray© is the standard of the world for monumental grade granite, known for Its durability, strength, and moisture resistance, along with its consistent gray color, that’s free of impurities. Combining that raw material with the craftsmanship of a Barre Granite Association member manufacturer creates a lasting memory that is second to none and will pass the test of time. To learn more about Forest Lawn, please visit www.forest-lawn.com