Punchbowl cemetery gets makeover

Gene Castagnetti
Gene Castagnetti

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl is in the midst of a $9 million dollar renewal to replace all the grass on the 40+ acre property and clean and realign the roughly 50,000 headstones.

"To the layman, yes, we have a beautiful setting.  In fact the satisfaction survey that is done indicates that 95-percent of our customers believe that the appearance of our national shrine is excellent," cemetery director Gene Castagnetti told Hawaii News Now.  But Castagnetti said anyone who takes a close look at the lawn will see the Bermuda grass is being overrun by an invasive grass.

"This looks nice and green, but this is really just weeds," Castagnetti said referencing the invasive grass.  And even where the Bermuda is still dominant, the law is showing its age.  The cemetery has not been given new sod since the cemetery opened in 1949.

As time has passed and the ground has settled and shifted grave markers have sunk and are now uneven.

As part of the "Millennium Grounds" project every marker in the cemetery is being taken out of the ground, cleaned, and put back in its original location.  The realigned markers are in perfect line at the exact same elevation.

"We will raise and realign those grave markers.  We will put in a stabilizing device, a plastic material called grass pave which will keep the markers from sinking.  This will reduce our maintenance cost," Castagnetti explained.

"We've got over 50,000 American servicemen or their dependents interred here.  That's the price of freedom that your looking at.  So how do we memorialize these people?  We give them a marker and we give it perpetual care" Castagnetti said.

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