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Death of a cemetery

A lot of folks who are comfortably nestled in the Fox Hill area are supposed to be Greek. And dead. A big chunk of it was supposed to be a Greek cemetery. Why isn’t it? Because the Town Meeting system of the early 1950s stumbled and bumbled into parliamentary chaos.

Look at Article 8 on the 1950 warrant. Seems simple enough:

Greek Cemetery article 1950 Burlington MA

Greek cemetery map Burlington MA

The man behind the proposal was Burlington attorney/developer Jack Moss. He orchestrated many successful real estate deals of the time, but this cemetery deal became horribly soiled when it met Burlington’s Town Meeting system:

  • Oct. 2, 1950 —  A motion to approve the cemetery was made and seconded. A motion to dismiss was rejected by the chair. By this time, the place was already too rowdy. A motion to approve went to a vote: 91 in favor, 94 opposed. Maybe. Over the uproar, moderator Gerry Seminatore declared the motion lost. More uproar! Tempers flared, members shouted at each other and the moderator, who banged his gavel repeatedly to no avail. Finally he declared the vote illegal due to the bedlam. This caused more bedlam.
  • Oct. 16 — Another attempt, this time 160 in favor and 163 opposed. That meant 323 votes received — but there were only 320 eligible voters in the room. Another mess! Moss asked for reconsidering at the next meeting.
  • Dec. 2 — Another attempt, but fewer than 100 people showed up due to harsh weather. That meant no “quorum,” a fancy word for the minimum attendance required by law. But the small crowd decided to proceed anyway. This time the article passed, 41 to 38 — but it was invalid due to the low attendance. Back to the drawing board for another attempt in 1951.

For the 1951 Town Meeting, some new language described the sheer size of the parcel:

Greek cemetery proposal Burlington MA

 

  • February 1951 — Another attempt. A motion to dismiss the proposal ended in a tie vote, 107-107. Uproar! The moderator banged the gavel until it literally broke, to no avail. He finally left the room with the town clerk and went home. But angry voters refused to leave. They made John Blais the moderator and Robert Burns the temporary clerk. The cemetery proposal was defeated. It was brought up for immediate reconsideration but again defeated. The next article, which would make a two-thirds vote mandatory before a permit could be granted for various projects including a dump and a cemetery, was quickly read, voted on and passed. The meeting adjourned.
  • But before that two-thirds requirement could be approved by the state attorney general, another meeting was held in April to vote on the cemetery permit, this time by printed ballot, to remove any ambiguity. It was approved by a clear majority, 251 to 192, but not a two-thirds majority. That didn’t matter because the state attorney general hadn’t signed anything yet, so a simple majority was enough. The burial permit was issued at last!

But now the Hellenic Association had changed its mind. Why push something so divisive upon Burlington? It backed out and left town, but Moss wasn’t about to give up. He tried to have the hard-won burial permit transferred to something designated as Burlington Memorial Park, but the permit was revoked and the issue died. Oh well. He instead built Moss Street (self-named), Jonathan Road (his son), Woodhill Road and many other roads on that property. As of 2021, the neighborhood is only a small percentage Greek, and 100% alive. We assume.

Some other rejected plans:

3 thoughts on “Death of a cemetery Leave a comment

  1. Very interesting. Never knew Jack was a developer too or that my old bus route was named after his family. Thank you as always.

  2. My uncle Everett Graham, like his father Henry, kept journals. Postwar they were weather, temperature, sometimes a few lines about the day. When he passed he left them to my mother, who left them to me. He kept three. One from high school (he went to Lexington High School- Burlington did not have one then) until he joined the service. Another written in the war years, during his time with the Americal division in the Pacific, and with the 1st Marines on Guadalcanal. (The censors had confiscated all soldiers diaries on Guadalcanal- the DOD mailed this one back to him in 1952!) And lastly, when he returned home in 1945, until his death.
    In his February 1951 entries, the month and year I was born (Selfishly, I read February’s entries, wanting to know what was going on when I was born and was I mentioned.) he has this entry: “Big fandago at the town meeting- Aunt Maude called me to come and get her and Bill. Riled up”.
    Maude Graham was the town clerk and did not drive. Must have been the town meeting written about above.
    MGM

  3. Another fine article to help fill in the pieces of the puzzle of why Burlington is the way it is. My mother and father passed papers on their house in January 1949. I was 18 months old and always heard while growing up about lively town meetings through the fifties that were held in the old Town Hall second floor auditorium. Burlington was expanding rapidly and with the expansion came many different ideas that were thought to make Burlington a better place to live. Because of those moments of lively discussions we now have the current format. I noticed another paragraph from that warrant pertained to land use for dumps. There are still a few of us living here in Burlington that can remember all of the famous landmarks around town. I have no doubt in my mind that “Ole Timers” could see their quaint town turning down the wrong road. So if somebody wanted to develop a parcel that may cause loss of tax income to the town their heels were dug into the sand to make a firm denial towards anything different to their way of life.

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