After more than two and a half years of steady improvements at Hernando Memorial Park, the future is bright for the city-owned cemetery.
That might seem odd when talking about a cemetery, but Hernando Mayor Tom Ferguson is of the opinion that once a new land survey of the cemetery is completed, there should be enough room at the cemetery, located atop a rolling hill off Magnolia and Oak Grove streets in the DeSoto County seat, to last well into the next half of the 21st century.
"We've got enough land to take care of people for decades to come," Ferguson said.
Improvements to the city-owned cemetery was a major objective of Ferguson, who believes in preserving the final resting places of citizens and early civic leaders.
About three years ago, citizens spoke out at city board meetings about the need to fix erosion problems, misaligning of graves and even mix-ups involving where individuals were buried.
On a much larger scale, similar problems have occurred at several Tennessee cemeteries north of the state line.
"This is public land," added Ferguson. "It shouldn't be neglected. We would just like to continue with the improvements that have been made."
Ferguson singled out praise for cemetery custodian Quincy Randle, whom Ferguson said has worked diligently over the past several months to fill in holes where erosion has occurred, leveled off gravesides to prevent uneven areas and cut back brush to reveal sidewalks which had long been obscured by brush.
Randle, who in addition to his work for the city in maintaining the cemetery, is a gravedigger for a local funeral home.
"It's coming up to date," said Randle of the sprawling cemetery. "It's coming back to life. The complaints are slim to none."
Randle readily concedes that was not always the case.
"It was going into neglect mode," said Randle, who was hired to look after and maintain the cemetery after public outcry concerning its former dilapidated condition. "Chip (Johnson) got the ball rolling and then Mayor Ferguson got in there and things really began to improve."
According to Randle, a very large dirt pile, which had grown over the years due to excess dirt, was leveled.
Randle said residents are beginning to show pride in the city cemetery again.
"People come by all day long to pay their respects," said Randle. "I've really gotten to know a lot of these families."
Hernando Memorial Park dates from the early 1950s. The much older Hernando Baptist Cemetery to the rear and Second Baptist Cemetery down the hill date from an earlier time.
Ward 4 Alderman Michael McLendon said he is glad to see that maintenance and upkeep of the cemetery has improved.
"I haven't heard one complaint since we have made improvements," McLendon said."Since we now have one person who opens and closes graves, there isn't as much dirt scattered around. We haven't had as much sinkage. That comes from a team concept."
"It's all about knowledge and care," Randle said.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.