By Jean Clark
The old Pleasant Hill Cemetery on Browntown Rd. was the scene of a unique ceremony last month — a grave dedication. The old cemetery, dating from before the Civil War, has seen many graveside interments and memorial services held within its confines. This is probably the first time that the owner of a resting place organized a grave dedication party.
Marian Braun Ziebell built a home in Uplands Village in 2005, moving full time to Pleasant Hill in 2009. There are two Crab Orchard stones on her future gravesite, though she is not obligated to actually be buried there. On one is engraved her name and date of birth. On the other is the statement, “Thirty-four homes in six countries ~ I wanted a permanent address.”
A gathering of about 40 friends and relatives joined in the dedication. They had been invited with, “To everyone thinking about now and the hereafter: you are invited to my grave dedication party.” She explained her reason for the ceremony and led songs accompanied by pastor of the Pleasant Hill Community Church, UCC, Tom Warren, on the guitar. Susan Stark, a Pleasant Hill musician and songwriter, sang, “I am a Poor Wayfarin’ Stranger.” Emily Byrens, Richard Braun and Marian led the spiritual, “Soon-ah will be done with the troubles of this world,” especially touching in retrospect because Dr. Braun, Marian’s cousin, passed away just one month after the dedication. Pastor Tom had a few remarks of a light nature referring to the fact that so many people who had lived all over the world have found a home in Pleasant Hill. Afterwards, all enjoyed hot pretzels from Pennsylvania, beer, and sparkling grape juice.
Marian and former husband Kenneth were in church work overseas for 22 years — Vienna, Belgrade, Jerusalem and Cyprus. Marian founded and led international choral groups in Belgrade, East Jerusalem and Cyprus. They established the Ayia Napa Ecumenical Conference Center in Cyprus. Marian led the British and American Women Archeological Study Group for four years, planning trips to digs and museums. She had worked on a volunteer dig at Tel Gezer in Israel. Mary Alice Shepard, now of Pleasant Hill, and her late husband, Fred, took over the center when the Ziebells left in 1982. Marian also taught English in Morioka, Japan and led a German folk-song group there. Back in the United States, Marian became editor/writer in the national headquarters of the Presbyterian Church, USA, in Louisville, KY. She was also coordinator of volunteer services for community ministries and music director at First Unitarian Church and Zion National Baptist Church.
Marian was attracted to Uplands Village after visiting her cousins, Dick and Ted Braun and the Shepards, moved here. In addition, Alford Carleton was a powerful visionary and educator who served for a time as executive vice president of the United Church Board for World Ministries. In this capacity he chaired a small committee, which issued a study grant for Kenneth to do work in a theological school of the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition. This led to the Ziebell family of five spending three years ('65-'68) in Belgrade, Serbia (former Yugoslavia). After retirement, the Carletons lived at Uplands in a house on Maple Circle. At the dedication, Marian explained that her three children lived in widely separated parts of the United States and she had lived in so many communities that now that she has settled in Pleasant Hill, “this is it!” She has planted a weeping hemlock bush and a prickly pear on the gravesite. After moving to Pleasant Hill full time, Marian became pianist at Monterey United Methodist Church for two and a half years. Having attended Tuesday morning Bible study at Kynet Methodist Church in Sparta, she participates in the town’s annual race relations and other social events. She was glad to join the Pleasant Hill Community Church, United Church of Christ, a denomination that brought together four earlier church bodies, and in which 12 members of her immediate family and cousins have served as clergy. She is chair of the peace committee, and keeps contact with Interfaith Paths for Peace in Louisville. Although Marian takes seriously end of life issues, she planned a lively, moving grave dedication party; ending the printed selections from the Uplands Village Writers’ Group with, “Why did the old lady drink a bottle of varnish? - She wanted a fine finish.”
* * * The Grab thrift shop at 1944 W. Main St. in Pleasant Hill will hold a special $1 Bag Sale on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Grab will be closed from Dec. 16 until Jan. 3, 2013. For emergency needs, call the PH Community Church at 277-3193.