Cemetery visits are as easy as visiting a website

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published November 19, 2020

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — In 2020, you can travel anywhere you want with an internet connection and a smart device. That includes a cemetery.

Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton Township, part of Mt. Elliott Cemeteries, began utilizing a digital tool to give family and friends immediate access to different parts of the cemeteries — all without physically having to be at the site.

The tool was actually developed and began to be implemented in October 2019. It involved inputting thousands of burial records from paper into digital form for accessibility, including 360-degree views of the property.

Frank Oldani, director of family services, said it was a progressive way for families to find loved ones and build photographic tributes online. The tool allows online visitors to search a person and see a genealogical history of a family based on input from the family itself, such as the First Holy Communion, high school graduation, weddings and births of children.

Resurrection’s online tool is run by webCemeteries of Pennsylvania and Cemetery360.com of California. The two tech companies have provided award-winning software to hundreds of cemeteries across the United States and Canada.

“We kind of wanted to be the leader in our industry, in our market, in having this,” Oldani said. “It was mostly as a convenience and service to our families. When the pandemic hit, it became a strategic tool.”

Mt. Elliot Cemeteries COO and General Manager Michael Chilcote said the website saw an increase in visits after COVID-19 became widespread. Even email inquiries for pre-planning scenarios rose.

Oldani said the office was closed between March and May, and reopened in June. Visitation has been down this year overall, but the online tool has helped generate sales.

Safety precautions have included following state executive orders, staffers utilizing masks and plastic shields, and having sanitation stations.

“We have also seen families share memories and photos of their loved ones through our website,” Chilcote said. “Families, and their memories of loved ones, are typically spread out across the community and the country, and through the memorial pages on our website they can collect all of these photos and stories into one place.”

Oldani said that while online users cannot zoom in on headstones, they can view upright monuments as well as search individuals by name and find out the location within the cemetery.

Family service counselors can also utilize the technology to look for available properties near loved ones — a feature only available to staff and not the public.

Currently, Oldani said, about 65% of Resurrection Cemetery can be viewed electronically. He said there are roughly 83,000 individuals located there.

The intention, he added, is to roll out the technology to cover all 330 acres — including 60 undeveloped acres — of the cemetery.

“It was kind of a test for us,” he said. “We wanted to focus on the areas where there is the most activity with families.”

Oldani said another Mt. Elliott location, Guardian Angels Cemetery in Rochester, is likely to be the next location to have such technology available.

To share a memory about a loved one at the cemetery, visit mtelliott.com/resurrection360 or email resurrectioninfo@mtelliott.com.