The Living Among the Dead

The Living Among the Dead

Paterson has two cemeteries in its southeast corner. My mother and father are buried in one. My maternal grandparents and Aunt Rose (Rosadee) are buried in the other. I don’t visit often and I plan to write a bit more about that in an upcoming post. Today I did visit and brought a notebook and, happily for the purposes of this blog, my camera. I had begun to scribble a few notes for the aforementioned post when something or someone about 100 yards away caught my attention. It was a deer. Actually it turned out to be a small herd of deer.

I walked in the direction of a herd, but a car was also approaching and they scattered and fled. Once the car left the vicinity their movement slowed, although as I walked closer they continued to move away. I was able to take this one photo from a distance of about 70 feet or so. They continued to move along the fence line until they came to the break in the fence that separates the two cemeteries.


As the deer moved out of sight I found the groundskeeper sitting in his pickup truck speaking with the driver of a another truck of the type that is used to deliver concrete in-ground burial vaults. The groundskeeper told me that the herd has lived in these two cemeteries for eight years. There are now sixteen deer in the herd, including two fawns who were born this spring. During the growing season they eat the ornamental foliage that visitors plant near the graves of family members. During the winter the groundskeeper feeds the deer stale rolls that a local deli owner provides him.


It does make sense that these deer can thrive in a cemetery. It’s quiet and the few vehicles that do travel the roads don’t attain the speeds that would make them a threat to the deer. There are no predators. The primary threats to the deer are disease and malnutrition.


One can imagine some bereaved family members smiling at the thought of the graves of their loved ones being visited by deer. As long as the deer don’t eat the geraniums or hostas that they plant to decorate the graves. When one life ends, other lives go on, both human and otherwise.


One might wonder how big a herd these two urban properties could support in the long term. One also might wonder what means might be available to control the population should it grow beyond what can be sustained in that environment.


I hope to learn if the local newspaper has ever carried a story about this herd of deer in these two cemeteries. If no story has ever been written, perhaps I can write one. For now I am happy to be able to report on them in this forum.

2 thoughts on “The Living Among the Dead

  1. Mary Carnis 31 May, 2014 / 7:14 am

    How about that? That is really pretty amazing Pat.

    • passaicbackyard 31 May, 2014 / 10:02 am

      Thanks, MC. I was quite surprised, but maybe I shouldn’t have been.

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