West Lawn Cemetery board seeks funds to preserve history.

Becky Campbell • Dec 17, 2017 at 12:39 AM

When West Lawn Cemetery was victimized by vandals earlier this year, the governing board decided something needed to happen to make sure more damage didn’t occur in the future.

All year, the board and other community supporters have worked toward keeping the cemetery tidy and raising money for a protective fence in hopes of protecting the six-acre property and graves of people buried there.

The oldest section dates to 1902 but the cemetery was expanded in 1924 along the circular drive, according to a historical account from Mary Alexander, a leader in the African American community.

So far, the board has been able to get some clearing of trees and stumps along the circle of the cemetery road. Part of that was paid work and part was due to the generosity of an anonymous volunteer, according to Lydia Bridwell, one of the many supporters of the cemetery. The board also had two signs installed informing any visitors of expected conduct and hours of operation.

“We wanted to put up the dawn-to-dusk signs,” Bridwell said. “That would give the police ability to ask someone to leave if they’re in the cemetery during the night. The signs were donated by a family member whose mother passed away when he was a baby, and she’s buried there.”

Those signs were installed earlier this month.

Recent weather snapped the flag pole. It had been donated by Rolling Thunder, and Bridwell said the board hopes the organization will be able to replace it.

Work planned for spring includes the main sign bricked with new lettering on it. Bridwell said the work is being done in stages because of funding.

“We have to do it piece-by-piece because it takes manpower, volunteers and some money to get these things done,” Bridwell said.

The cemetery board has held fundraisers to collect money for needed repair and perpetual care for those buried there. Bridwell said the board will reach out to local churches asking for a helping hand to improve the site.

“We have a lot of people who say they’ll make a donation to the cemetery and it never comes about,” Bridwell said. “We’ve reached out to people across the United States who have family buried there and we had a lot of donations from that.”

For Bridwell, protecting the site is personal.

“This became very personal to me; my grandparents have a plot out there with my aunt, my mother and sister,” she said.

Likewise, Alexander knew people who are buried at West Lawn and hopes the community will see the importance of preserving it.

 “It is hoped that the restoration and preservation will serve to guide the continued care and respect for the deceased and to encourage community participation,” Alexander said.

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