Fall gardening tasks often go undone if winter arrives ahead of one’s motivation to turn off the football game. But for a hardy group of Rockdale Temple volunteers just before Thanksgiving, commitment to a JCGC cemetery clean up won out over gusty winds and a predicted high temperature in the ’20’s. The sun even came out for awhile on Sunday, November 19 for eight Rockdalers fulfilling their chosen volunteer activity for the congregation’s annual Mitzvahpalooza.

Long underwear, down jackets, boots and serious hats were definitely needed upon arrival at Walnut Hills Cemetery, but most everyone warmed up nicely once the work of weeding, branch collecting, tree and bulb planting got underway.

Stuart Zanger and fur-hatted John Cobey worked on digging a hole to plant a tree honoring the memory of the cemetery’s long-time superintendent, Bill Riegel. Matthew Kraus and young daughter Eden collected fallen branches into a trailer behind a small tractor. Karen Zanger and Jan, Sara and Emily Frankel planted hundreds of daffodil bulbs in beds near the entrance gates. Then the entire team cleared grass and weeds, moved a bush and planted bulbs around the cemetery’s Civil War memorial.

“It’s pretty amazing to be working just a few yards from the graves of Rabbis Isaac Mayer Wise, Max Lilienthal, Victor Reichert—you realize that a whole worldwide movement really had its start right here in Cincinnati,” said Stuart Zanger. He had to almost shout because just feet away from these Jewish luminaries’ graves, JCGC Foreman Ronnie King was deftly re-shaping a garden bed using a front loader.

Ronnie King and co-worker Timmy O’Connel did everything they could, short of increasing the temperature thirty degrees, to make the volunteers’ time pleasant and productive. They had the plan, the tools and the materials for all the tasks on their list so that by afternoon’s end, the volunteers felt they had contributed to a job well done.

After thawing out, JCGC executive director David Harris was appreciative of the Rockdale group’s efforts. “It was really beneficial for the cemetery from a work standpoint, pretty amazing considering the weather. And on top of that, it’s always a win-win when people in the community get more familiar with our cemeteries.” Earlier in the day, spurred by a conversation, Harris had quickly located one of John Cobey’s and Jan Frankel’s relatives in the cemetery’s database and the couple were able to pay a visit to the grave that very day.

It ought to be much warmer for the next scheduled volunteer clean up day. Daffodils should be in full bloom on Earth Day, Sunday, April 22, when participants in the 2017-18 class of Jewish Federation Young Adult Division’s LEAD program (Lead, Educate, Act and Develop) and alums will dig into Ronnie King’s long spring job list. Their work will make a difference and be most appreciated!

JCGC is happy to do the pre-planning for other groups of volunteers as well. A team leader can schedule in advance by calling the JCGC office, 513-961-0178.