Machpelah Cemetery marks centennial year with a time capsule.

The Machpelah time capsule, to be opened in 2062

The world can change a lot in 50 years. Fifty years ago, the Civil Rights battle was being fought, the U.S. had yet to put a man on the moon, the average new house cost $12,500, a gallon of gas cost 28 cents, and the idea of a computer-phone seemed like science fiction.

Who knows what our world will look like in 2062?

One thing Paul Saville, general manager of Machpelah Cemetery in Ferndale, hopes is that when the time capsule buried in the front of the chapel on Dec. 17 is opened in 50 years, this cemetery “will look as good then as it does today,” he said.

The Machpelah time capsule was buried in culmination of the 100th anniversary year of the cemetery, founded in 1912 by David Oppenheim on land occupied by the Granger Mill, the first manufacturing establishment in Ferndale, from 1869-1876. Oppenheim’s mission: to provide the Jewish community a beautiful and peaceful place to honor the memory of their deceased.

General manager Paul Saville and his son Paul place the stone atop the time capsule.

The time capsule, donated by Detroit Wilbert Vault Co. and buried on the lawn in front of the chapel, contains descriptions and photos of the property as it is today, a few issues of the Jewish News, a list of key people buried on its grounds and a coffee cup bearing the logo of its 100th anniversary. A stone marker provided by the Monument Center in Ferndale, which reads “2012-2062,” was placed on top of it, near a Sunset Maple tree planted to commemorate Machpelah’s 100th year.

“When the time capsule is opened, I hope people will be excited and intrigued to see what the cemetery looked like 50 years ago,” said Martina Murphy, office manager at Machpelah. She placed a folder containing instructions to the next generation on how and when to open the time capsule in the cemetery’s fireproof vault. “By the time it is opened,” she added, “it’s likely that the cemetery will be sold out.”

Currently, the cemetery has 400 unsold lots that are available and 2,700 lots in reserve. More than 16,500 people, dating to the early 1900s, are buried on its grounds.

The time capsule burial was the end to a year of improvements at the cemetery. The old metal fences and concrete barriers were replaced and refurbished with shiny new aluminum fencing, memorial benches were added and a stone memorial shaped like a book was installed near the chapel.

The book memorial

The book memorial honors founder David Oppenheim and his son Royal, who took over management of the cemetery and was known to walk its grounds well into his 80s to ensure everything was maintained to his satisfaction.

“If it weren’t for our current board of directors and two co-presidents, we would not have been able to do the necessary things to keep this cemetery going for 100 more years to come,” said Jerrold Bigelman, executive vice president and general counsel at Machpelah. “We’ve tried to maintain the cemetery the way Royal would have wanted it and, in 50 years, when this time capsule is opened, we hope Royal’s spirit is still guiding the caretakers of this historic cemetery.”

By Jackie Headapohl, managing editor