HOUSTON — Some view graveyards as dreary places, but a group of Chickasaw County volunteers feels one of the community’s oldest and most visible cemeteries doesn’t need to be that way.
Helen Pettit and her family and friends spent the better part of a week clearing brush, trimming around gravestones and cutting back fence-lines at Wesley Chapel Cemetery north of Houston.
The cemetery has the graves of hundreds of local residents — including Civil War veterans — and is located on a hill at the highly visible intersection of U.S. Highway 15 and Mississippi Highway 32.
“My family and others talked about doing this at a family reunion,” said Helen Pettit, who coordinated the cleanup. “We all agreed to bring chainsaws, weedeaters, rakes and hoes and also the trailers to haul everything off in.”
Pettit said the main problem they faced this year was finding warm, dry days to do the work.
“We had a cold spring and the rain made us delay it two weeks in a row,” said Pettit. “But we had everything lined up. It was great to get this good weather and get started.
Pettit said they also called the county to help with a few inmates to load brush onto trailers.
“This is a community cemetery and we just wanted it to look nice when people drive by,” said Pettit. “Everybody has worked real hard and things have gone rather quick. We’ve gotten a lot done.”
Pettit said during clean-up they have noticed a lot of tombstones that are leaning or that have fallen over.
“We wish people would get up here and straighten up these stones,” said Pettit. “They are heavy and we are glad to trim around them if they are on the ground, but we really can’t pick them up and set them back right.”
Pettit also urged people to check on the graves of family members in cemeteries around the county.
“A lot of families and churches make a big day of fixing up the graves and cemeteries where family are buried,” said Pettit. “It’s just a sign of respect and that’s something we don’t see much of anymore.”