Winter Garden NIMBYs forget death is fact of life

When it comes to crying NIMBY, there are universally accepted reasons: highways, Walmarts or, worst of all, stinky landfills.

And then there's death.

Cemeteries or other storage of human remains also trigger loud howls of Not in My Backyard.

That's the case even for an inconspicuous columbarium — a wall with niches to hold cremated ashes — proposed by a church in Winter Garden.

A small group of neighbors on Lakeview Avenue, a street of historic bungalows canopied by live oaks and Spanish moss, plans to go to court to stop the columbarium at First United Methodist Church.

One opponent even took out an ad in the West Orange Times calling the project the "Wall of Death."

Jay Cummings, another opponent who lives directly across the street from the site of the proposed wall, says he doesn't like how the wall will expose his twin toddlers to death.

"For us, it's not simply a brick wall," he said. "We're going to see the string of mourners coming and going. ... It would be like having death in your face every day."

But it turns out that death doesn't always inspire a NIMBY response.

Some people aren't so squeamish about living next to the dearly departed.

Death, after all, is very much a part of life.

"And it shouldn't be scary," said Terry Goldstein, who lives with her husband, Lewis, across from the more than 120-acre Woodlawn Memorial Park & Funeral Home in Gotha. "We raised four children here, and it was a part of their lives."

The Goldsteins can see flowers marking grave sites from their driveway. But for them, and others who live nearby and jog and walk through Woodlawn, the cemetery is a serene, well-tended green space, not a morbid reminder of their own mortality.

"There's a reverence there, and I actually appreciate that," Terry Goldstein said.

Hearing the 21-gun salute at a military funeral was as common as hearing an occasional plane fly overhead.

Just down the road, Mary Cook has lived across from the cemetery for 25 years.

"It's quiet," she said. "It doesn't bother me at all."

Her granddaughter, Allison Stevens, remembers coming to the house as a child and thinking of the cemetery "more or less as just a curiosity."

"I really don't remember having any questions as a child," she said. "We always thought it was pretty."