Cemetery Trust holds buried treasure

Forest Hills Cemetery’s troubled arts trust owns over $125,000 in historic artifacts that are not on public view, despite the trust’s educational mission.

As part of its $340,000 in assets, the Forest Hills Educational Trust (FHET) lists rare treasures: paintings, sculptures and first editions that are related to people buried in the cemetery.

FHET is the troubled nonprofit that organizes art events at Forest Hills Cemetery. The two organizations have different boards of directors and apparently had tensions that led to the FHET’s programming halt in January. FHET has not said whether it will have any arts programs, including the Lantern Festival, in 2012.

According to documentation provided by the state Attorney General’s Office, FHET held $127,894 in “artifacts” at the end of last year.

FHET Chairperson Bob MacLeod told the Gazette that these “collections connected to Forest Hills Cemetery” include paintings by E.E. Cummings and a first edition book by playwright Eugene O’Neill.

“Most items are related to people buried in Forest Hills,” MacLeod said. Cummings and O’Neill are both interred there.

Like much between the Trust and the Cemetery, “It gets confusing,” MacLeod said, as some items belong to FHET and some to Forest Hills Cemetery, and they are not sure which items belong to whom.

These items are located in FHET’s offices and are not on display for the public.

FHET’s mission, according to the same document provided by the state Attorney General’s Office, is “to promote the appreciation and preservation of historic artifacts created by or related to persons interred in Forest Hills Cemetery by allowing the general public and the organization’s members to participate in educational programs at the cemetery which promote the appreciation and preservation of the artifacts.”

FHET’s board members include Anthony Sammarco, a well-known author of Boston history books, including ones about JP and Forest Hills Cemetery. Sammarco did not answer a Gazette email.

FHET Program Coordinator Jonathan Clark also did not respond to questions.

FHET programming was abruptly suspended in January to evaluate the future of the nonprofit organization through a survey on FHET’s website, as the Gazette reported at the time. The outcome of that evaluation is still unclear.

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