Family ties in Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery

LOWELL – In 1919, Robert Long became the first person baptized at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church.

In 1995, he was laid to rest in the adjacent cemetery, where a monument to his brothers, Harold and Ralph, who both died in World War II, stands.

With approximately 350 burials, Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery is hardly a small one, but it wouldn’t be inaccurate to describe it as a family cemetery, as names like Long, Lang, Huck, Offenberger, Bauerbach and Schaad are found on tombstone after tombstone.

“My mother, my grandparents, my great-grandparents and my great-great-grandparents are all buried here,” said Evan Schaad, the church organist. “I would say the area is a very family-oriented one. This is mostly German farm families, and many of them have kept up the tradition of farming.”

Father Tim Shannon has been pastor at the church for a year-and-a-half and said the family ties there are strong.

“They begin here, and for most, they end here,” he said.

That’s often true even if their lives have taken them far from Lowell.

“A couple years ago, I played for a funeral for a guy from Arizona who asked to be buried here … near his parents,” Schaad said.

The cemetery is still an active one, averaging five or six burials a year, Schaad said.

The church was established in 1919 from the Ave Maria congregation in Watertown Township, according to Millie Covey Frye’s book on German-American churches and cemeteries in the area, which also noted Robert Long’s as the first baptism there. Schaad and Shannon said a desire to establish a church closer to Lowell where it could serve more people was a factor in the selection of the new site.

A shrine featuring benches facing a sculpture of the Virgin Mary was constructed in 1979 using bricks from the former church, and the cornerstone of that building sits there as well, Shannon said. Our Lady of Mercy still maintains the Ave Maria cemetery along Waterford Road.

The first burial at the new cemetery was of Mary Davis in 1919, although Schaad said some people were re-interred there from other locations as well. The most recent occurred in September of this year.

In the center is a monument consisting of a large sculpture of Jesus Christ on a cross. Atop the base of the monument are plaques honoring the Long brothers, both bomber navigators killed in action during World War II – Ralph on Nov. 11, 1944, in the Mediterranean area and Harold on March 14, 1945, in Lintz, Austria.

They flank the marker for the original inspiration for the monument, Louis Bauerbach, who was killed in action in France’s Argonne Forest on Nov. 1, 1918, 10 days before the armistice ending the war, according to data at the Washington County Local History and Genealogy Library provided by local historian Ernie Thode.

In fact, St. Louis was considered as a possible name for the new church in honor of Bauerbach, Shannon said.

Descendants of the Long family are still active in the church, with Robert Long’s son, Ken, a member of the cemetery committee. Last year, the family paid for a new gate to the cemetery, dedicated to their family members interred there.

And Bauerbach is Ken Long’s great-uncle on Long’s mother’s side of the family.

Shannon said he often walks through the cemetery, a habit he’s enjoyed for many years prior to coming to Lowell.

“There’s something about cemeteries for me … the sense of history,” he said.