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Hi Everyone,
Please welcome John Davis, our new assistant manager. He’ll be covering a lot of things for us now and in the future.
We’re excited to report the Park House renovations are moving along, so come check them out.
Make sure you get our seventh annual picnic date, Saturday, June 24th, on your calendar.
We are looking ahead to spring, having yoga classes with goats and offering pet burial to our lot owners. Remember too, lot price increases are coming March 1st.
We’re seeking your input on the funeral rituals that you’d like to have for your family interments.
Check out the upcoming events you might be interested in. We’d love to have you join us.
Please let me know if you have ideas or questions.
Happy New Year!
John Davis, Penn Forest Assistant Manager.

John went to mortuary school because he felt strongly called to the work of funeral service but knew from the outset that he did not want to spend his days embalming or selling caskets. He sensed that what people wanted for their loved ones and for themselves was changing in America, but the particulars of that change were still largely undiscovered. He is driven to uncover, with others, the new ways of ritualizing and memorializing our loved ones that most meaningfully explain our selves to ourselves. His sense is that the best new ways will be a rediscovering of an old way.

Which is why he is working with us at Penn Forest. The simplicity that is the center of a green burial speaks to him. It feels like the beginning of the answer to the question that a whole generation of people are now asking. To him this is sacred work and he feels deeply honored to do it. And he knows that to do this work it is necessary to listen well and imagine new alternatives with others. So please make a point of talking with him next time that you are here. He is excited to hear your thoughts.

Park House. If you’ve visited us in the past few months, you may have had a tour of the Park House that we’ve been rehabilitating. If you haven’t, the next time you come make sure you ask for a tour.
This Civil War era, four-bedroom house came with the property when we purchased it from the Murrays in 2011. We always thought we’d have to tear it down because it was in such poor shape, but, thanks to the vision and hard work of one person, it is being restored so we can use it for events.
Of course, we plan to use it for committal services, but it could also be used for other events, such as family picnics/reunions or community meetings. If groups want to serve refreshments, we could accommodate that too.
We hope to start using it for events and making it available to rent to our lot owners this coming summer. Interior pictures will be in our next newsletter.
Hold the Date. The seventh annual Penn Forest picnic will be June 24th from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. We’ll have music, shared pot-luck food, tours, displays, visits to Returning Home Farm and vendor tables, and now that we have the Park House, we don’t need to worry about the weather.


Breaking news: We just booked Lonesome, Lost and Foggy bluegrass band for the picnic! They were a big hit at our picnic a couple of years ago. Check out their music here and here. Also see their website and Facebook page.
Yoga with Goats? We read about a group in Portland OR who have been conducting yoga classes with goats in attendance. (See the video here.) We have goats and we have yoga instructors, so we’re thinking, why don’t we do this too at Returning Home Farm? 

Our pals Moni Wesner and Myrna Patterson (our instructors) are game. How about you?

If you’re interested, send your email address to and we’ll notify you of when it will happen.
Pet Burial at Penn Forest. We are preparing to offer pet burial services to our lot owners in a separate pet section. Prices will be affordable—we just want to cover our costs. We’ll accept either whole bodies or cremated remains, but, just like people burials, all pet burial containers must be biodegradable. Families can dig the grave, or for a fee, Penn Forest will do the digging. We can obtain and install grave markers too, or families can provide their own markers so long as they meet our requirements. Contact John ( for more information.
Price increases. We’re about half way through our sixth year of operation and we’ve never had a price increase on our full-body lots. Prices will increase $200/lot on sequential and select lots effective March 1, 2017. If you’ve been thinking about buying lots at Penn Forest, you might consider doing that before March 1st. Current prices are listed on our website here.

New Easy Payment Plan. To make lot ownership more affordable, we’ve developed a new time payment plan. It’s a 10-year payment plan with no down-payment required. We’re offering sequential lots for $20.00/month at the current price or $25.00/month after the March 1, 2017 price increase. Request an application form from us to get all the details.
What Happens to my Body After it’s Buried at Penn Forest? People sometimes ask us that. Here’s the answer (YouTube Video)
Alternative Ends. Often our lot owners and the families of those we inter tell us they want something different than the typical rituals funeral homes offer—viewing, visitation, memorial services, procession to the cemetery. In fact, sometimes they say they’re not interested in using any funeral home services at all. We work with these families to provide exactly what they tell us they want. We can provide direct burials—straight from the place of death directly to Penn Forest. We can accommodate their desires for graveside rituals, such as having friends and family members act as pallbearers to move the body to the grave and lower it, backfilling the grave, providing live music, providing graveside officiation (religious or nonreligious), and many other meaningful things.

In working with these families, it’s helpful for us to have some ideas in mind to suggest. We have a few, but we’d like to hear yours. Please send us an email that details your idea of a perfect sendoff for you or your family members. We’ll summarize the ideas we get in a future newsletter.
Winter at Penn Forest. Watching these geese fly south over the Returning Home Farm barn reminded us that winter is on the way. People often wonder if winter presents any problems for us. For instance, they wonder if the ground freezes so solid we can’t do burials. The answer to that one is, no. Over many years and 40+ cemeteries he services, our grave-digger, Jim Gropelli, says he’s never seen it cold enough to keep him from digging a grave.
Snow, on the other hand, can be a problem. If we get a deep snow on the day the family wants to do the burial, we may need to nudge the schedule a day or two until we get the snow cleared, so please bear that in mind if that situation occurs.
Otherwise, if you come to Penn Forest when the snow is on the ground, it’s best if you wear proper footwear for trudging through the snow.


Death Café - Tuesday, February 7, 2017.  I’ve lived in Pittsburgh most of my life and I’ve never been to The Frick. Now is my chance—yours too maybe.  
Meet at The Frick for the next Death Cafe! Please bring a handheld dessert like cupcakes or brownies or some fruit to share. Death Cafe will provide coffee, tea, plates, and napkins. Doors open at 6:30 and the conversation will begin at 7:00.
The meeting will be in the Community Room near the Car & Carriage Museum, behind the Visitor Center. Parking is available in The Frick lot or along the street. Kindly RSVP by emailing or click here.

What is Death Cafe? A community conversation where people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea, and talk about death. Their objective is 'to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.' A Death Cafe is a group-directed discussion of death with no agenda, defined objectives, or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counseling session.  
For more information visit 
Note: Death Café is an independent group not affiliated with Penn Forest.

Mother’s Day Remembrance Tea at the Penn Forest Park House - Saturday, May 13, 2017 – 1:00PM - 4:00PM. Mother’s Day can be painful for those who have experienced a loss. This tea is on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend and will provide a reflective, healing place where participants can honor the memory of their loved one while sharing special memories with others if they choose. Tricia Brown, VITAS Healthcare’s bereavement manager will facilitate this discussion and she reminds us, “Setting aside time to reflect on those memories can be very helpful amidst the busyness of day to day life.” Tricia predicts there will not only be a few tears, but also laughter at the Mother’s Day Remembrance Tea.
VITAS Healthcare of Pittsburgh and Penn Forest Natural Burial Park are hosting this free Mother’s Day Tea for those grieving the loss of a mother or mother figure, as well as for mothers who have lost children. The event is open to anyone in the community. We encourage those attending to bring a photo to display on our Table of Remembrance. Seating fills up quickly, so early reservations are strongly recommended. RSVP by Thursday, May 11. 
The Seventh Annual Penn Forest picnic. - Saturday, June 24th from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Planting Flowers on Graves. It’s nice when people plant flowers on graves, but it’s not so nice when the deer eat them. Here’s a list Kathy Raborn gave us of native PA plants that are deer resistant. Read the disclaimer and proceed at your own risk. (Note: We reserve the right to trim or remove plants that grow beyond grave boundaries.)

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Did You Know?

You signed up for this newsletter because you are interested in green burial at Penn Forest, so I'm sure you know that we don't allow embalming with toxic chemicals, we bury people in biodegradable coffins or shrouds and we don't use burial vaults. But did you know...  

You can have a viewing and visitation at a funeral home before a green burial. Or if you don't want to use a funeral home at all, we can arrange that too. By chilling the body, green burial can occur up to 10 days after death. You can be an organ donor and still have a green burial. You can be cremated and have your ashes interred at Penn Forest in a biodegradable container.

The choice is yours. Contact Penn Forest for more information, and other options to help you make the best choices for you and your family.

Green Burial Questions?

You've got questions...we've got answers!  Check out our Green Burial Frequently Asked Questions.  Do you have a question that was not answered in the FAQ's? Email us and we will be happy to answer it for you.

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