The Current Condition of the Willard Cemetery




With the help of many volunteers restoration of the cemetery has begun



October 2014: Rescheduled meeting took place with the Commissioner of Mental Health - Tim Raggazo, Darby Penney, Rodney Powis, Colleen, and Kathy Peters attended

July 2014: Due to heavy rain and storms this month, flooding occured at the cemetery entrance and was cleared by Seneca County Highway. Seneca Stone donated 8 tons of stone to fill in where the old stone washed out.

June 2014: A group of volunteers redug out the number markers revealing all those buried in the Original Cemetery. The brush under tree at the top of the hill was cleared out and mulch was brought up and Lawrence’s stone was placed on the footprint of his shack by Jim Rapalee.

May 2014: Darby Penny (co-author of "The Lives They Left Behind") has committed herself to helping us get permission for the memorialization to Lawrence Mocha. There is a meeting scheduled in the later part of May with the Commissioner of Mental Health, Ann Sullivan, at Senator Michael Nozzolio's office in Albany.

April 2014: Mike Huff donated a brown granite stone for the memorial to Lawrence Mocha. Unfortunately the OMH has still not granted approval for the memorial.

December 2013: Six signs were installed at Willard Cemetery to designate the different religious sections of the cemetery thanks to the Seneca Highway Department.

November 2013: E-mails and conference calls take place between the OMH and Colleen to no avail regarding the permission to memorialize Lawrence Mocha.

October 2013: A donor from Bloomsburg University has offered to pay for a bronze plaque in memory of Lawrence Mocha once permission has been granted from the OMH.

September 2013: Thus far a total of 360 grave markers have been uncovered in the original cemetery.

August 2013: Volunteers and supporters of Willard Cemetery met to work on the grounds and unearth covered number markers that are the only remembranceof the Willard patients buried there.

July 2013: Colleen spoke at Hadley Hall as park of the Suitcase project to explain what the Cemetery Project has been doing.

May 2013: Colleen found the deed to the property that is now Willard Cemetery at the County Clerk's Office. The Apollos Rising property was transferred to the State of New York in 1875. Article on the cemetery that Colleen wrote appeared in the Finger Lakes Time, "...But Not Forgotten."

APRIL 2013: Correspondence from several legislatures concerning Senate bill 2514 and Assembly bill 3175. Emailed Tom O’Clair concerning the publication of names of the Binghamton patients on line. He responded with a circular argument. They gave little hope of attending to promises made to beautify Willard Cemetery. Received word that Brian Kolb had co-sponsored the Assembly bill. Wrote thank you notes to all co-sponsors of the Assembly bill. Contacted Weisenberg’s office twice and via email to meet with him when I am in Albany on April 15. No word yet.

JANUARY 2013: Colleen had phone conversations with Joe Robach’s office and Assemblyman Weisenberg concerning the reintroduction of the Willard Cemetery bills. Letters were written to committee members to seek support of the bills. Met at Gail’s house to sign letters.

OCOTBER 2012: Went to River Park Grill to meet with Tom Reed and to ask for his help in the memorial project if he is elected as our representative. Met with lawn supervisor from Cortland to talk about his No Mow Zone created at the college.

SEPTEMBER 2012: Colleen returned to Board of Supervisors at their next meeting to receive proclamation of support. Met with Jason Bermagossi at the Willard Cemetery to do a video about the history of cemetery and the pending legislation.

AUGUST 2012: Colleen spoke at Seneca County Board of Supervisors to ask for support of both senate and house bills in the NY legislature to release names of patients.

JULY 2012: Willard project meeting at Ovid Firehouse to talk about writing to all the committee members in both house and senate to encourage passage of bills to release names of patients for memorialization. Colleen prepared letters. Diane made labels for all legislatures.

JUNE 2012: Meeting at Ovid Firehouse, June 6th. Craig Williams gave his annual talk on the suitcase exhibit. Found out at that time about legislation having been introduced into both houses of the NY legislature to release names of patients at Willard to be memorialized.

MAY 2012: Worked on clearing brush and planting flowers at the entrance of the Willard Cemetery, May 4th. May 19th, Tour of Willard Cemetery in combination with the tour of the Hospital.

MARCH 2012: Committee and Tom Bouchard worked on cutting back brush and setting up a ring of stone around the Willard Cemetery sign.

FEBRUARY 2012: Colleen and Yvonne met with the Romulus Town board at the invitation of Tom Bouchard, to speak about our memorial project. We were able to solicit mutual help in clearing brush at the cemetery entrance.

JANUARY 2012: HIPAA course offered by OMH was taken via video at Colleen’s house January 17. Those attending: Janet Brown, Diane Valerio, Colleen Spellecy, Gail Snyder, and Yvonne Gruele. Sent signed affidavits validating those who took the course to OMH.

NOVEMBER 2011: Over the past months, Spellecy, the committee and with the help of so many wonderful volunteers, the project is making headway. Restoration of the cemetery has begun through volunteer efforts of cleaning brush and landscaping (picture shown to the right). The names of all those buried are still unknown and Spellecy along with the committee and volunteers are still researching for the thousands of patients' names still in need of memorializing. A sign to designate the presence of Willard patients buried at Ovid Union Cemetery has been purchased and erected there.

OCTOBER 2011: Colleen spoke at Waterloo Lions Club at their dinner meeting October 6th. John Allen presented his PowerPoint presentation on what he hopes to do to restore the cemetery at the Ovid Firehouse on October 13th.

SEPTEMBER 2011: Colleen spoke at the Willard Alumni picnic at the Camp on the grounds of Willard. She handed out fliers of the upcoming meeting with John Allen at the Firehouse in Ovid on October 13th Set up the display with buttons and bracelets. Willard Committee regular meeting on September 20th.

AUGUST 2011: John Allen and Tom O’Clair came to the Willard Cemetery to meet with the committee and walk the cemetery. They spent 2 and 1 half hours. They came up with ideas to disk the field and plant wildflowers, create a path that would be wheelchair accessible, create a parking area below and cut brush and treetops to make Seneca Lake visible. They also promised we could take a HIPAA course that would make us eligible to search family members of patients on computers through Ancestry.com. Colleen Spoke at Waterloo Rotary on August 30th.

JULY 2011: Ordered, "Who is 143?" Buttons. Likoudis wrote a press release to five newspapers advertising the Service at Willard Cemetery. Planned a service for the named and unnamed patients at Willard Cemetery with the help of Rev. Jim Crupi, Joel Abrams and Fr. John Tokaz. Gathered stones for the service as a symbol of what we hope to accomplish for placement in a pile to serve as a marker. Poster of Lawrence Merek printed. Posters were put up in the Ovid Library, Romulus Town Hall, Law Office, DMV Waterloo, and Sure Save in Trumansburg and Community Bank in Waterloo. Sent a letter to Christopher, Covert, Seneca County DOT for signage at Routes 96A and 132. Service for 5,776 patients buried at Willard Cemetery on July 23, 2011 at noon. There were 35 people in attendance. John Allen and Tom O'Clair from the OMH called to set up a meeting at Willard Cemetery.

JUNE 2011: Spellecy spoke at Catholic Daughters meeting in Waterloo, New York. Spellecy was asked to explain the project at the Ovid Union Cemetery meeting. Spellecy met with Joan Grela at Senator Nozzolio’s Office and presented documentation for obtaining names, presented precedent which was a bill passed in Ohio for Cemetery Restoration committees to gain access to names and presented ideas about ownership of cemetery. Bill Case for the Syracuse Post Standard interviewed Spellecy. Article about the project was published in the Syracuse Post Standard on June 19, 2011. Spellecy did an interview with the Finger Lakes Radio Group and posted sound bytes on WGVA website. Second meeting of Willard Cemetery Memorial Project. Filled out paperwork to have a traveling exhibit to raise awareness for Cemetery restoration from OptumHealth. Emailed Rabbi Reiner to take part in Vigil Service on July 23, 2011 at the Cemetery.

Received emails and phone calls about relatives buried at Willard from: Ron Hanley, Mary Doherty, Pat Bannon, Pam Priest, Jonathan Brothers Senator Nozzolio's Office drafted a letter to Michael Hogan (Commissioner OMH) to ask for the names of those buried at Willard. Found out that Willard Asylum Hospital is on the National Register of Historic Places. E-mailed the Boy Scout Association Finger Lakes Council about an Eagle Scout Project at Willard. Interview of Colleen Kelly Spellecy on Channel 36, Elmira, NY.

MAY 2011: Spellecy emailed and called other individuals and groups that have had successful cemetery restoration projects. These include: Gowanda, Ogdensburg and Washington State (Grave Concerns). Spellecy sent email to area representative of Catholic Conference for Human Development, Kessler, because of past involvement with similar projects in Minnesota. The Romulus Historical Society hosted a Tour and Open House at Willard with the at least 25 of the total attendees also visiting the cemetery. Spellecy wrote an email to the Director of Public Information at the Office of Mental Health, Jill Daniels and Allen regarding the deplorable conditions at the cemetery on May14th for the Tour and Open House. Spellecy sent letters to Seneca Meadows, pharmaceutical company to solicit funds for the memorial project and to inform them of the project.

Spellecy created marketing materials for publicity and solicitation. She created a marketing poster with Lawrence Marek as the “poster hero.” Spellecy also received a map of the Willard Cemetery that indicated placement of numbers and location of graves. Spellecy visited Seneca Stone and with hard hats on was escorted through the quarry to pick out a stone for the marker if other ventures failed. Spellecy spoke with Sgt. Keefe at the Office of Corrections about mowing the Willard Cemetery and/or the inability to mow. She also went to Senator Nozzolio’s Office to ask for help in getting the lawn mowed. Spellecy was asked to speak at Seneca Falls Rotary meeting August 30th at noon at the Holiday Inn in Waterloo. Spellecy followed up with her initial call to Senator Nozzolio’s Office in regards to the request for mowing at the Willard Cemetery. On May 25, 2011 the first formal meeting of the Committee to memorialize Willard Cemetery met in Ovid. Likoudis wrote a press release from the minutes of the meeting and the release was sent to the FLT and other newspapers. A website was begun www.willardcemeterymemorialproject.com.

APRIL 2011: Shaw's article appeared on the front page of FLT including pictures. Received several emails from interested and sympathetic people about the project. Heard supportive words from both Senator Michael F. Nozzolio's and Brian Kolb's offices. Secretary of the Ovid Union Cemetery, Reynolds, asked to meet and talk with Spellecy about combining the project to include the Ovid Union and Holy Cross Cemeteries, as patients of the psychiatric center are buried there as well. Sent several emails to the Office of Mental Health executives, in Albany as well as letters to Commissioner of Mental Health, Michael Hogan, Commissioner of Education, David Steiner, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, Office of Mental Health, John Allen, and the Office of Information Management. A thirty-minute phone call was granted to Spellecy with Allen. Conversation concluded with reasons for NOT allowing the names, but however agreed that the cemetery needed to be put in good condition and did support ideas for a memorial on site. Allen also gave Spellecy contact information for Tom O'Clair at the Office of Mental Health. Tom O’Clair called Spellecy and supported her ideas to have a memorial at the cemetery. At that time Spellecy invited him to the Tour of Willard on May 14th. Spellecy met with Reynolds to view the Ovid Union Cemetery “patients row.” Spellecy made flyer for Open House at Romulus Historical Society for the Willard Tour on May 14. Made donation flyers for all three cemeteries.

MARCH 2011: Colleen Kelly Spellecy met with several members of the Romulus Historical Society (RHS) to see if they would support the project. Spellecy wrote a news story and sent to the Reveille/Between the Lakes, which is a local newspaper. Spellecy sent the same news story to writer at the Finger Lakes Times (FLT). Article in Reveille/Between the Lakes was published with a picture of "Who is # 143." Dave Shaw called from FLT to do a story on the project.