Project pursues city cemetery upgrades

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Mohandas Gandhi once said a society can be judged by the way ittreats its dead.

A coalition of civic organizations and private businesses ishoping Gandhi would offer a good judgment of Brookhaven followingcompletion of a beautification project at Easthaven, Rose Hill andHillcrest cemeteries.

“We were doing a terrible job of maintaining (EasthavenCemetery) and making it look like a park. A cemetery is a memorialpark,” said Dave Pace, owner of Brookhaven Monument Co.

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Pace said he went to the Natchez city cemetery about a year agoand realized how beautiful and well-maintained the memorial parkwas. He decided he wanted to do something to improve Brookhaven’scemeteries and approached the Lincoln County Master Gardeners withhis ideas.

Karen Sullivan latched onto the project, Pace said. She hasspearheaded efforts by the Master Gardeners, the Brookhaven-LincolnCounty Chamber of Commerce’s Community Appearance Committee andother beautification organizations to improve the look of thecity’s cemeteries. Her efforts have been funded partly by afive-year grant from Brookhaven Monument Co.

“Anything we can do to make our community nicer is well worthit,” Pace said. “It already looks 500 percent better.”

Many of the beautification efforts will not become apparentuntil spring, when many of the flowers will bloom, but some of thechanges are more easily apparent, said Kevin Laird, a MasterGardener.

At Easthaven, 18 live oaks have been planted along the mainboulevard by the cemetery’s maintenance staff. Work has also begunon cleaning and repainting the fences and entrance, and shrubs havebeen planted near the maintenance shop eventually to hide it frompark visitors, Laird said.

Hundreds of flowers have been planted in several beds throughoutthe park, Laird said, but they will not emerge until spring.

Other efforts that will become more visible in the spring areongoing, he said. A buffer zone of crepe myrtles will be plantedalong the northern and eastern fences to provide more privacywithin the park. Crepe myrtles will also be used along a drainageditch running through the middle of the cemetery to hide it.

Brookhaven Monument will donate 10 granite benches to be placedin the park, Pace said. The Master Gardeners will sell theinscription rights to further fund beautification efforts.

Pace complimented the cemetery maintenance employees for theirwork on the project.

“They really are trying their best to get the cemetery inshape,” he said, adding the mayor and board of aldermen fullysupport the project.

Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes, the first president of theBrookhaven Master Gardeners and a member of the Chamber’sAppearance Committee, complimented Sullivan on her enthusiasm forthe project and the dedication she has shown in moving itforward.

“She has been very frugal with the limited funding we havewithout sacrificing the beauty of the project,” Estes said.

Pace said Easthaven was chosen as the first site to receivemajor attention because it needed the most improvement, and alittle funding would go a long way to enhancing it.

Rose Hill Cemetery is likely the next major project, Lairdsaid.

“There are plans to plant some foliage and, long-term, to dosome fencing and monument cleaning,” he said, adding the cleaningefforts would be a good project for scouts or school projects.

Hillcrest Cemetery only needs minor improvements, Pace said.

“It’s not in bad shape at all,” he said.

Donations to the beautification efforts can be made at the cityclerk’s office to the city cemetery trust fund.