Patty and Joel Osborne, photographed with a grave they adopted at St. George's Cemetery, are concerned that a 100-foot cell tower planned for the woods nearby could disturb unkept or unmarked graves in the proposed site.
(Globe staff photo by Wiqan Ang)
In what is now the oldest, most overgrown corner of St. George Cemetery, Anne Collins buried her 6-month-old son in 1861, and a few months later, her 26-year-old husband. Nearby, in a shady spot now nearly hidden by trees, Patrick Murphy bid farewell to his wife, Bridget, in 1884 with a simple stone carrying a straightforward message: "May her soul rest in peace. Amen."
But that rest may no longer be so peaceful. The cellular giant T-Mobile is seeking to build a soaring 100-foot-tall cellphone tower in a wooded patch at the edge of the graveyard. The Archdiocese of Boston, which owns the cemetery, has approved the plan and agreed to lease the spot to the company.
The proposal - which still must be approved by Framingham's Zoning Board of Appeals - has enraged the Cherry Street Neighborhood Association, a band of several dozen self-appointed guardians who say that installing the planned tower and a surrounding 8-foot-tall fence violates the memories of people buried nearby.
"This is a sacred place," said Margaret Sleczkowski, who has been living in a cottage next to the cemetery for 38 years. Her eyes welled up with angry tears when she talked about the prospect of maintenance trucks driving past the hundreds of old gravestones on the property's only access road to the woods.
Sleczkowski said the cemetery's dead "depend on us to protect them."
The Boston Archdiocese maintains that the proposed tower is disrespectful neither to the dead nor to the living trying to pay their respects.
"We would never do anything to desecrate a cemetery," said Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese. "We are responsible for the perpetual care of the loved ones who are in our cemeteries. Under no circumstances would we tolerate, nor would we act in a way that would break that bond of commitment that we have."
Read more about the controversy over the proposed cemetery cell tower in the online edition of today's City & Region section.
-- Erica Noonan and Manny Veiga