By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — What is a legacy? According to the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, a legacy is a gift or bequest, or anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor. At Mt. Olivet and Resurrection cemeteries in Kansas City, the Legacy Gardens remind visitors that America’s heritage is being preserved by the men and women who serve in the military, or as first responders, police and firefighters.
The now open Legacy Gardens offer a final resting place for those who have served their country or their community.
Dedicated November 11, 2011 — Veteran’s Day — the Legacy Garden project was launched earlier that year by Steve Pierce of Muehlebach Funeral Home, Charlie Passantino of Passantino Brothers Funeral Home, now managing partners of Catholic Cemeteries, sales consultant Jim McGilley III, Tripp Johnson of Johnson Granite Supply and the Catholic Cemeteries staffs. Resurrection Cemetery on NE Cookingham Drive and Mt. Olivet Cemetery on Blue Ridge Blvd., were selected because of the availability of land needed for the undertaking.
Veterans of all branches of the military as well as all First Responders, who have provided for both the safety of the United States and of local communities, now have their own special place of rest.
Permanent memorials are available, allowing families to dedicate a granite bench or flag in honor of a loved one who has died but will always be remembered. As of now, four benches, designed to accommodate cremains, are on site at the Veterans Memorial Garden and at the First Responders Memorial Gardens at both cemeteries. The Legacy Gardens incorporate above-ground burials in a mausoleum or columbarium, as well as in-ground burials in graves suitable for both cremains and casketed remains.
The Legacy Garden at Resurrection Cemetery is located near the exit onto Cookingham Road, where it can be seen by all who enter and exit the cemetery. The Legacy Garden at Mt. Olivet is located near the southwest side of the cemetery between the St. Therese and Sacred Heart gardens. Steve Pierce commented that the location allowed the First Responders and Veterans Memorials to be visible from everywhere in Mt. Olivet. Being able to see it from all across the cemetery “also memorializes those veterans and first responders buried in other parts of the cemetery,” he said.
Former director of Catholic Cemeteries Joe Harris explained what goes into the design and opening of a modern cemetery. Most modern cemeteries are about 60 acres of platted grounds, he said. A modern cemetery means any cemetery designed or opened after 1948, including Mt. Olivet.
With older cemeteries — St. Mary’s Cemetery, founded in 1873 in Kansas City, and Mt. Olivet Cemetery founded in 1893 in St. Joseph — serving as guides, the planning and developing of a cemetery has come a long way.
From their inception, the Legacy Memorial Gardens at Mt. Olivet and Resurrection cemeteries in Kansas City incorporate centuries of cemetery design, aided by modern survey and architectural science, artists, vendors, and good old-fashioned manual labor.
Very early in the project, Charlie Passantino and Steve Pierce partnered with Catholic Cemeteries to discover what families want with respect to personal burial decisions. They then partnered with Johnson Granite Supply, a local granite design and supply company, as to the type of feature to distinguish the Legacy Garden from other gardens, which in turn led to a veterans’ focus group who shared ideas of what they would like to see in the new garden. Catholic Cemeteries’ grounds staff and area nursery experts determined the species of trees to plant and where to plant them. Lastly, they met with a landscape architect, a surveyor and an engineer who drew up plans to show what the gardens would look like.
The trees were planted at the time of the garden surveys and given a unique grave location, which was then taken out of inventory so that no one would be able to purchase that location in the future. When each tree was planted, two to four graves were assigned to it and taken out of inventory so each tree would have adequate room to grow without encroaching on anyone’s grave, or damaged if a grave is dug near them in the future. This is done with the assistance of nursery professionals.
The Veteran’s and the First Responder’s Memorials were also removed from inventory before any sales were made to ensure that enough space for concrete walkways and the Memorial symbolizing the garden’s significance. One gravesite will be a permanent dedicated site for future flag disposal ceremonies, in which worn-out or damaged U.S. flags are respectfully retired and destroyed by fire, as called for in the United States Flag Code.
The Legacy Gardens are peaceful places of trees and plantings for the last resting place for veterans and first responders.
Grave sites in the Legacy Gardens are available. For more information on the Legacy Garden at Mt. Olivet and Resurrection cemeteries, contact Mt. Olivet at (816) 353-1900.