MONONGAHELA – Rich Bucchianeri beams when he talks about the restoration of the Monongahela Cemetery’s historic chapel.
In fact, the president of the cemetery’s board of directors said that of all the projects he’s been involved with, this is the one he is most proud of.
That’s quite a statement from someone who has been the superintendent of the South Park School District and chairman of the Washington County Authority Board.
There is an open house scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at the cemetery on Country Club Road to celebrate and tour the new chapel.
“We hope to get a lot of people coming to see what we’re very proud of,” Bucchianeri said.
Renovations included replacement of the deteriorating asphalt roof with a 100-year slate roof to match the original roof, removing the carpeting and restoring the original oak floors, fireplace restoration, installation of new lighting, window restoration, replacing the bathroom with a new working facility and the installation of a new HVAC system and duct work.
“We just did a lot of different things to beautify the chapel,” Bucchianeri said.
The chapel is a key reason the cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. It was designed in 1894 by architect Frank P. Keller and constructed in 1895 by the Yohe Brothers at a cost of $3,525.
Descendants of the Yohe brothers actually installed the new roof.
Other contractors were Joel Weygant, Edmund Gessel, Rick Opferman and JED Heating & Cooling.
The initial steps in the renovation took place in 2015 when board member Jay Carson presented the board with a check for $5,000 for work on the chapel.
“So the board hired someone to do a study to determine what exactly we needed to restore/renovate this chapel,” recalled Bucchianeri, who has served as board president since 2000.
In 2017, the board set about the task of raising the money necessary to complete the work.
“One of the ways we raised money was community donations,” Bucchianeri said.
Have they ever.
More than $95,000 have been raised in donations from 294 individuals and businesses.
“That’s a lot for a small community,” Bucchianeri admitted. “Our community always pulls together anytime something needs done. We were amazed at the outpouring of funds that the community did give us.”
This money came on top of a Washington County Local Share Account grant of about $61,000.
Bucchianeri said the goal is to open the chapel to the community for clubs and organizations to use for various functions or perhaps even use for weddings.
The cemetery is a spot for field trips – especially due to the Civil War site – which would allow the chapel to be used as a classroom.
“We’re going to encourage the public to take advantage of this,” Bucchianeri said.
There are 4,600 veterans buried at the cemetery among the 37,000 people buried there.
Bucchianeri said there remains a little work to be done, including the installation of glass to protect the outside of the rear window and finishing the basement floor.
“We’re thinking we can still use some donations,” he said. “We probably need about another $20,000 to really complete everything.”
Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so by calling cemetery superintendent Mark Affinito at 724-258-8700.
“it’s a beautiful setting at the cemetery,” Bucchianeri said. “People use the cemetery daily. People walk here from opening to closing. It’s like an oasis in the city of Monongahela.”