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Cemetery is setting for old-fashioned picnic

Richard Kerimoglu found himself in Tamaqua Wednesday evening, about two hours from his home in Wappingers Falls, New York.

Kerimoglu had recently enjoyed a train ride in Jim Thorpe, and then jumped onto Facebook where he saw a post from the Tamaqua’s International Order of Odd Fellows Harmony and Lady Rebekah Harmony Lodge.

It told of a picnic at the Odd Fellows Cemetery - and as a member of Odd Fellows lodge near his hometown, Kerimoglu wanted to visit.

But a picnic in a cemetery?

“That’s what you did back in the day after your church service,” Justin Bailey, Tamaqua lodge secretary explained of the practice that dates back to Victorian times. “They’d bring picnic baskets and some folks brought up whole tables and set them up over their loved one’s grave to have a meal. It was eating with your family.”

It was the first time the Odd Fellows held a picnic.

“Normally we do a walking tour but this year we thought we would do an old-fashioned picnic. So if you have loved ones up here you can bring your own food or get something here,” Bailey said.

The organization provided hot dogs, hamburgers, homemade desserts, snacks and treats.

Some attendees brought chairs and picnic blankets to relax on the cemetery’s lawn or under the shade of a tree.

There was also a cake and watermelon walk at the Soldier’s Circle, and children played games like badminton.

The Odd Fellows’ headquarters was open for visitors to learn more about the organization. The lodge began in 1843, and at one time, was the second largest in the state.

The 38-acre cemetery had its first burial in 1861 and is the final resting place for more than 16,000 people, or twice the population of Tamaqua.

Jessica Seltner, Joshua Berko and Josh Guscott relax on the lawn at the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Tamaqua, where a picnic was held Wednesday evening. JILL WHALEN/TIMES NEWS
Katie Arnold, of the Odd Fellows Lady Rebekah Harmony Lodge in Tamaqua, prepares food for a community picnic at the Odd Fellows Cemetery. JILL WHALEN/TIMES NEWS