1937 - 1996

Third General Manager, Richard F. Allison

Richard Allison

Nichol was succeeded on the day of his retirement by 31-year-old Richard F. Allison, horticulturist. A native of Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Allison had come to Transylvania University on a ministerial scholarship, but after two years he transferred to the University of Kentucky, where he graduated with a major in ornamental horticulture in 1936.

The first two general managers had developed the cemetery as a carefully landscaped, park-like "city of the dead," and Allison continued in this tradition. To it he added a new dimension, planting avenues of flowering trees and shrubs and creating garden areas. 

His beautification of the grounds began in 1937, when he planted dogwood trees along both sides of the main drive, creating a pectacle that each spring draws thousands of visitors to the cemetery. 

Besides pink and white dogwoods and trees grafted to bear both colors, Allison set out ornamental cherry, crabapple, magnolia, and other flowering trees and shrubs that provide spectacular color throughout the growing season. garden areas with tulips, jonquils, irises and other plants were placed in appropriate spots around the cemetery, and one plot near the northeastern boundary of the grounds now is a project of the Iris Society of Central Kentucky.

A major undertaking was the establishment in 1963 of a formal garden that takes up an entire section below the lower lake. Here the entire area was laid out in flower beds, a lily pool, walks and a bridge. Shrubs that in some cases were as much as eleven feet across, were moved from other parts of the cemetery where they were no longer needed. Boxwood, taxus, and yew were planted, and thousands of bulbs and annual plants were set out to give a continuous array of blooms from early spring to the chrysanthemums of fall. Baskets hanging from branches of trees contain begonias of several varieties and trailing lantanas.

As the result of Allison's efforts, by the time of his retirement The Lexington Cemetery enjoyed a national reputation. In addition to his consulting work for Governor Bert T. Combs and Transylvania University, he also served as president of both the Southern and American Cemetery associations. His tenure at the cemetery was marked by an increasing use of motorized, labor-saving equipment, one of the most important of which was a mechanical gravedigger, the first of its kind in Kentucky, which was acquired in November 1951.

Allison continued as superintendent until December 31, 1973, when he and his wife, who was secretary at the cemetery, retired. He was active in community affairs until his unexpected death on December 5, 1984. On April 19, 1986, a memorial statue and bronze plaque were dedicated to the memory of the former superintendent. They are located, fittingly, in the garden area which he had established twenty-three years ealier.

Fourth General Manager, Robert Wachs 

Allison was succeeded by Robert Wachs, who had served as his assistant general manager for eighteen years and had worked at the cemetery since 1956.

Wachs continued the policies of his predecessor, both in the horticultural aspects of the cemetery and in taking advantage of technological advances in maintenance and operations and in the office. Allison had introduced the use of the mechanical gravedigger, power mowers, and in similar improvements, and Wachs acquired other and more modern equipment as it became available. This equipment included grass trimmers, leaf blowers and leaf vacuum collectors. 

The growth of Lexington's population continued, requiring the cemetery trustees to open four new ections. Also, to meet the demand for above-ground entombment, the company constructed its first mausoleum, containing 204 crypts. It was named the Bell Mausoleum in honor of the cemetery's first superintendent, Charles S. Bell. It was dedicated on October 23, 1975. Appropriately the bell which had hung in the office building was relocated to the Bell Mausoleum.

Additionally, cremation was becoming increasingly popular; therefore, on August 26, 1978 The Lexington Cemetery opened the first crematory in Kentucky outside of Jefferson County. It also constructed in the lower level of the office structure a columbarium with 2,102 niches in which urns containing cremated remains could be placed.

A third major improvement under Wachs' leadership was the erection of the Lexington Mausoleum, which opened January 8, 1983. It contained 660 crypts for caskets, 80 niches, and a chapel where services could be held in inclement weather.

Finally, a new greenhouse complex and storage building were erected to allow the cemetery to carry on the tradition of growing its own trees, shrubs, and flowers for replacement and beautification of the cemetery.


Prior to his retirement on April 1, 1997, Wachs had visited cemeteries in forty-eight states and most of the outstanding floral gardens in North America. He was active in the Southern and International Cemetery & Funeral associations and a member of the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta.