Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times
Laura Foley, left, and Don Meehan find a grave in Sunnyside Cemetery using a GPS locator.

Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times Laura Foley, left, and Don Meehan find a grave in Sunnyside Cemetery using a GPS locator.

Volunteers adding GPS grave locator to Sunnyside’s website

Two community volunteers took on a project to make it easier to locate graves in Sunnyside Cemetery.

Halloween is in full swing in Coupeville, but not all strolls through the cemetery need to be spooky.

For many Coupeville residents, visits to the local graveyard are about history and familial connection, and two community volunteers are taking on a project to make it easier to locate loved ones laid to rest in Sunnyside Cemetery.

Coupeville resident Don Meehan began working with the cemetery district around five years ago. He was helping with data management on Sunnyside’s website when he realized it was difficult to track down the exact location of a grave in the cemetery.

“I don’t care where you live in the world,” he said. “You should be able to find your loved one if they’re buried here, period.”

Sunnyside’s website includes a catalogue of all the people buried there, listed next to the section, block and space where they’re buried, which site visitors can cross reference with a map of the cemetery. However, the map on the website doesn’t show individual plots, and each block is organized in a different way, making it hard for visitors to pinpoint graves’ exact locations.

Sunnyside’s website does link to findagrave.com, a website where anyone can upload a grave’s GPS coordinates so others can find its exact location within a cemetery via Google Maps, but the link takes the visitor off of Sunnyside’s website, which Meehan found frustrating.

He wanted to figure out a way to access Find a Grave’s data from within Sunnyside’s website. To begin, he and Coupeville resident Laura Foley uploaded photos and GPS data for every grave in Sunnyside to the Find a Grave website.

Documenting Sunnyside’s more than 3,500 graves took them the better part of this spring. After cataloguing the whole cemetery, Meehan contacted Find a Grave, and website managers agreed to share their database with him.

“We’re taking the GPS coordinates and putting them on our website,” he said.

When Meehan finishes the website updates, visitors will be able to search the name of a decedent buried in Sunnyside and view a map marking their grave’s location within about five feet, all on Sunnyside’s website.

Foley said this service is especially important for Sunnyside’s many historic graves, some of which are getting harder to read as they age.

“Any of the older stuff, you can’t even read it anymore, so it needs to be preserved,” Foley said. “If it’s not, and you don’t know where the location is, it’s going to be gone.”

Meehan said he hopes to finish this project by the end of the year. He also plans to make formatting changes to make the website more aesthetically pleasing.

Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times
Don Meehan and his dog, Cooper, kneel beside a grave Meehan found using Find a Grave’s GPS database.

Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times Don Meehan and his dog, Cooper, kneel beside a grave Meehan found using Find a Grave’s GPS database.

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