St. Lawrence Cemetery
By Dan Shine
I was not able to find any link between St. Lawrence Church and Saint Lawrence Cemetery. However, in my research I did come across a related story from one hundred years ago. We would like to thank Valerie Forte Vitale for sharing her mother’s words:
“The BonTempo family home was built at 374 Derby Ave., by my grandfather on what is now the corner of the cemetery closest to the intersection of Forest Rd and Derby Ave. Eight children were raised in the brick and stone house. My grandfather, Nicholas BonTempo, was the Supervisor of the Maltby Lakes Water Company property on Derby Ave. The family property is now part of the cemetery.
“Loretta , the youngest daughter, born in 1913, remembered the funerals of the soldiers killed in WWI, watching the caissons pulled by horses and hearing taps being played. She was attracted to the ceremony and the flag folding, watching the people tossing their gloves into the graves, through the fence that separated the property.
As a child, she and her siblings imitated the procedure, digging shallow holes and lowering her dolls into the ground with ropes fastened to small boxes. Unlike the real internments, her dolls were always disinterred.
“On Sunday afternoons, neighbors strolled into the cemetery to look at the new monuments and admire the mausoleums. When there were civilian funerals, professional mourners were hired to keen, giving voice to the sorrow the family was feeling. Children’s caskets were accompanied by all of the children in the extended family, young cousins and friends dressed in white. They wore white gloves.
“When my grandmother died in 1928, friends from New Haven hired fancy cars and were listed in the funeral records. Because my grandfather worked for a prominent New Haven company, their friends included the heads of utilities and my grandmother’s friend, Mrs. Comfort, the mother of their pediatrician, DR. Comfort.
Mrs Comfort was unable to attend the funeral, so she stood at my grandmother’s grave and eulogized her, in a loud, regal speech at a later date, with only my mother and aunts present. My grandmother is buried near the landmark Tierney (Tiernan?) angel, which is frequently noted as a large, typical grave marking of its day. (top of the hill, nearer to West River) I have seen it used as an example on web sites.
“On my mother’s 100th birthday, I went back to the parcel where she had been born, which my grandfather later sold to the cemetery and was developed in the 1950s, I believe. The only way to note the parcel is that it rises from Derby Ave in that corner of the cemetery, from the fence, and there is still one butternut tree that marks the family’s land, there had been many butternut trees, surrounding the house, and my uncles brought butternut trees to their land in Woodbridge where they built their family homes.
“The trolley to Derby passed by the cemetery on its regular route each day, so people could visit by taking the trolley during the early days.
These are all personal memories, not really the history, but the flavor of the cemetery.”
Thank you, Valerie!