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The Suburbanite
  • Postcard from Jackson Township: Burial place’s giant blue cross is decades-old tradition

  • It’s 2,415 lights — 69 strands of 35 lights each that make up the 240-foot display at Sunset Hills Burial Park.

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  • To motorists traveling west on Everhard Road NW, past Sunset Hills Burial Park, the blue cross seems to tower above the road, even though the lights are flat to the rising ground.
    They’re not touching that ground, but they are nearly level with it. In daylight you can see that the illumination is atop bushes that were planted and continue to grow in the shape of a cross on the hillside that rises to the left of the entrance to the cemetery. And in the light of dawn, you also can spot Christmas wreaths that decorate some of the graves that surround and are in the middle of those shrubs.
    “We put up the lights before Thanksgiving and leave them up into January,” said Scott Baran, general manager of Sunset Hills, who noted that the dimensions of the cross make it 240 feet tall and 120 feet wide.
    The cross measures 700 feet around its perimeter, said Baran, which means that 1,400 feet of lights — 69 strands of 35 lights each, for a total of 2,415 lights — are used to illuminate it’s double-edged outline.
    Because of its size and color, the cross likely is quite noticeable from the sky. Perhaps passengers in planes can make out its sacred shape.
    Passengers in passing cars can discern easily that it is a cross, and there are many of these passersby on Everhard Road during the Christmas season. Westfield Belden Village and the strip malls that surround it do business nearby.
    And no doubt the Christian message the cross sends is an encouraging one to many of the diners at a restaurant across the street.
    The lights of the Lake Cable area form a background in the sky that silhouettes the leafless trees at the crest of the hill. But it is not a desolate look. The season symbolized by the soft glow of the blue cross is joyous.
    This is not a new tradition. The cross has been put up at Sunset Hills at Christmas since the 1950s, Baran said.
    The sight of it this time of the year no doubt is familiar to frequent travelers in the area. But to infrequent passersby, perhaps the sudden presence of the giant cross causes an certain amount of awe.
    Stop, stand, and look at the cross long enough and there will be periods of silence, when traffic passing in front of it ceases for a few seconds.
    It is in that silence, absent the sounds of the world, that the spirit of Christmas and the message of the brilliantly-lighted cross can be conveyed most clearly. It is a message of hope and peace.