Respectful of their past, volunteers clean cemetery


A group of volunteers came out on Saturday morning, Sept. 17, 2016, to clean storm debris from historic Robinson Cemetery. Volunteers have launched a fund drive aimed at raising funds to hire a grounds keeper next summer.

Respectful of their past,

volunteers clean cemetery

MARY LOU MONTGOMERY

On Saturday afternoon, on the seventeenth day of September 2016, under the shade of an old elm tree and just a stone’s throw from the bank of Minnow Branch, a community gathered.

Four generations of descendants of those buried at Robinson Cemetery came together for a celebration of sorts. Hot dogs and brats, provided by Tinya Williams, were on the grill at Xavier and Rhonda Hall’s home, and the celebration marked the kick off of a campaign to provide ongoing care and protection for the graves of their loved ones.

The burial site was officially established in 1921, but there are much older graves on the site, which date back as far as 1869. Over the years, expansion of the cemetery moved to the east, and eventually burials filled all available sites.

“No one had been up there since Memorial Day,” Rhonda said. Monica Williams volunteered to keep the cemetery mowed for many years, Rhonda added, but this year she hasn’t been able to keep up with the volume of work necessary to maintain the grounds.

In the meantime, nature has taken a toll.

“Carlos Davis went to put flowers on his mom and dad’s graves. A storm had knocked down trees and he couldn’t get to his parents’ graves,” Rhonda said.

He came to Rhonda’s house. “He started crying. ‘Miss Rhonda, we have to do something.’”

“I posted up at the corner, and stopped every black person who went by,” Rhonda said. “Will you come help us clean up Robinson Cemetery on Saturday?”

Nearly everyone she asked said yes. Some followed through, and others didn’t. Still others who heard about the cleanup came without being asked.

“A crew went out with chainsaws and you have it,” Rhonda said. Rusty Bowen donated equipment and came up with a tractor. Workers included Ron Williams, Xavier Hall Jr., Jason Rose, Matthew Hawkins and Doc Clark. Carlos Davis is serving as chairman of a committee to raise enough money to hire a grounds keeper for next summer.

“There’s an art – a skill - to cutting a cemetery,” Rhonda said. “You have to respect the spirit that lies beneath that stone.”

These men started the cleanup, but much more needs to be done, Rhonda said.

Throughout the afternoon and into early evening, friends and neighbors stopped by the Hall home, enjoying the food and camaraderie, and making monetary contributions toward next season’s cemetery maintenance.

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