AVON LAKE - Lifelong Avon Lake resident Sherry Newman Spenzer has preserved many aspects of the lakeshore community's history for future generations.
Her latest project is “Lake Shore Cemetery of Avon Lake,” part of Arcadia Publishing's popular “Images of America” pictorial book series. It will be released Sept. 16.
The 128-page book contains 10 chapters featuring 233 images of the city's early settlers, once-prominent residents and early businessmen, gravestones, homes and documents explaining how some remains came to their final resting place. Edmunds Tower, who was from Vermont, drowned in Lake Erie at age 21 in 1822, according to his gravestone, the oldest known one in the cemetery.
The cemetery, nestled between the old Ice House and Miller Road Pier on Lake Road, has graves dating from 1822 to 2017. It used to be Stop 56 on the Lake Shore Electric Railway, an interurban railcar line that carried passengers seeking recreation and entertainment along the lakeshore from 1901 to 1938.
Curious sightseers still visit the cemetery to see the graves of America's early war veterans, town officials and children.
"Nobody can say for sure how many people are buried there," Spenzer said. "I estimate there's about 200. I have a lot of death certificates showing people are buried here, but not all of them have a gravestone."
Spenzer's historical research as a volunteer for Heritage Avon Lake led her to record the stories of many people interred in Lake Shore Cemetery since the early 1800s, including Joseph Moore, who was a bodyguard to Gen. George Washington near the end of the Revolutionary War.
Moore would have been a teenager then, like many soldiers in that war, Spenzer said. He was 82 when he died in 1846.
Others buried here include two seamen who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812 and four who served in the Civil War: Selden Payne, Reed Manning, Charles McClelland and Orlando A. Moore. There also are five who served in World War I: Cpl. William Tomanek, Pvt. John Pachis, Pvt. Robert Tomanek, and Carl Tomanek and Curtis Duff, whose ranks were unavailable. Several graves bear the names of Avon Lake roads, including Moore and Jaycox.
Also buried here are Eugene Herrmann Jr. and his wife, Myrtle, who opened the Tourist Inn at 32485 Lake Road in the 1920s. The restaurant, which occasionally hosted bandleader Guy Lombardo early in his career, now is Jake's on Lake.
Another is Patsy "Pasquale" Gerrone, who died in 2013 at age 91 and was a crewman for a Flying Tigers Squadron with the Army Air Corps in World War II. His wife, Elora, died at age 91 in 2017. Her interment is the cemetery’s most recent.
Spenzer, Avon Lake Citizen of the Year in 2017, said she was inspired to conduct research and write the book after helping her son, Austin, with a school project in 2002. As a third-grader at Erieview Elementary School, Austin had to write a paper on seven to 10 interesting facts about something in Avon Lake.
"I wanted him to do something different, so we picked the cemetery," said Spenzer, a retired domestic relations magistrate who has volunteered for Heritage Avon lake for five years. "We went to the history room at the Avon Lake Public Library, and there wasn't much there on the Lake Shore Cemetery.
"At the cemetery I was bitten by the history bug. There was so much history there — look at all the names — and I couldn't leave it alone. So, I finally started researching and writing about a year ago. Some of the gravestones tell a story; some don't have much information at all on them or you just can't read them anymore."
Relatives of those buried in the cemetery shared photos and stories with Spenzer, who said the library’s history room has collected more items in recent years. The collection includes
hand-written stories about the town’s early families, such as the Tomaneks, Derringers and Dunnings.
'People were very generous with private pictures and information, Spenzer said. "I acquired other pictures on www.geneaology.com. I'm also grateful to Andrew Fowkes, a professional photographer who took a lot of great pictures at the cemetery that appear in the book."
Spenzer developed and is co-presenter of Avon Lake's Community in the Classroom field trips for third-graders. She also served on the city’s Bicentennial Committee and participates in local theater. This is her third book about Avon Lake history. The others are “Socialites and Scofflaws” and “The Avon Lake Story Continues.”
The book is a valuable resource about Avon Lake’s history and early settlers, said Haley Johnson, a marketing specialist for South Carolina-based Arcadia Publishing.
"Growing up in the area, Sherry has given a well-detailed perspective of the people in the cemetery, and what their role was in the community," Johnson said.
“Lake Shore Cemetery of Avon Lake” is among six Arcadia pictorials about Ohio cemeteries. It will be available for $21.99 at the Thomas Folger House, Giant Eagle and Walgreens in Avon Lake and area Barnes & Noble bookstores. Proceeds from the book’s sales will benefit Heritage Avon Lake's efforts to preserve and promote local history.
Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series has released 638 Ohio-related pictorials, including 17 on Lorain County topics.
"I do all of this as my contribution to history," Spenzer said, "I hope everyone who reads the book enjoys it."
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