Locals will be honoring the dead & buried with food, drink and a heavy dose of the macabre next month in Patchogue Village.
Tickets are $85 each ahead of time or $100 at the door. (Sponsorships and journal ads are available.) Funds raised will go toward the continued upkeep of the cemetery off West Main Street through the Greater Patchogue Foundation, which is the nonprofit arm of the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce. (No relation to greaterpatchogue.com.)
“The idea came from the needs at the cemetery,” said one of the organizers, Melissa Kuhnle of St. Joseph’s College, which is also an event sponsor. “Over the years it had been neglected but it takes money to try to maintain it. And, since it’s a cemetery and Halloween is coming up, we made this a celebration of the dead.
The dinner gala will borrow from the traditions of honoring the dead through the Dia de los Muertos holiday, which is celebrated in Mexico other Latin American countries on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 each year.
Revelers will get beer, wine, hors d’oeuvres, a buffet of food choices from local restaurants yet to be named, all while enjoying dance performances and live music.
Jacqueline Hensley, of W.M.J. O’Neill’s in Patchogue, is another organizer of the event, which came together during conversations she had earlier this year with incoming chamber president James Skidmore.
Hensley, the chamber’s president before Skidmore was elected this summer, said she had been looking to plan a gala for the foundation.
Meanwhile, Skidmore was looking to organize a Dia de los Muertos-style event.
The Nov. 5 gala will be held under a tent, so it’s a rain or shine event.
A Mexican Dia de los Muertos-style altar is being built for the occasions, along with some historical information about notable figures who are buried at Lakeview (excerpt below).
“I wont give away too much,” Hensley said, “but the whole event is going to be formal with Dia de la Muertos regalia optional. You don’t have to come dressed up, but it’s highly encouraged.”
A self-proclaimed lover of everything spooky, Hensley is especially excited for Nov. 5.
“I will be in full regalia, skull face included,” she said. “I already have all my bits and pieces.”
Hensley said it’s important the cemetery be cared for, and hopes money raised will help greatly in those efforts.
“About 10 years ago there was a revitalization project,” Hensley said. “It’s now years later, and between nature and vandals … we don’t want it to go back. It’s right there as soon as you come into the village. It’s important that it not become an eyesore, both for the village and for the people buried there.”
Email the chamber at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 631-207-1000 for tickets.
From the Cemetery Restoration Committee website:
Notable among the three hundred headstones in this cemetery are the stones of five drowned sailors of the schooner “Nahum Chapin”, which was stranded off Quogue on January 21, 1897, and eight headstones of the sailors of the schooner “Louis V. Place” which was stranded off Lone Hill on February 8, 1895. Only four of the “Louis V. Place” sailors are buried here, although all eight received a headstone. Augusta Weeks, one of the four Smith sisters, donated the burial plots and covered the expenses for the sailors’ burials.
Elizabeth Oakes Smith, a nationally well know lecturer, reformer and poetess in the 1800’s, lies buried on the East side of the cemetery alongside her husband Sebah Smith, who was well known in literary circles and published his writings under the name of “Major Jack Downing”. They are buried on the site of their former home in Patchogue, “The Willows”, which is now part of the cemetery.
Photo: The Lakeview Cemetery entrance from West Main Street. (Michael White)