For Riverside volunteers, it’s a labor of love

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 14, 2004

DEMOPOLIS – Louise Reynolds directs Norman Brager to cut a limb above a gravesite in Riverside Cemetery as Jane Watson hauled other limbs to the curb to be picked up later. An all-volunteer crew of about 20 people converged on the historic cemetery Wednesday for the Riverside Cemetery Cleanup Day.

“Two years ago we did it for the first time,” Cemetery Board Member Kitty Eddins said. “Two years ago it was really bad. Everything was overgrown.”

That’s when Reynolds, whose ancestors are buried in the cemetery, decided something had to be done. So she formed the Riverside Cemetery Beautification Committee.

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“Most of us out here (cleaning up) have ancestors buried here,” Reynolds said, as she consulted Eddins about a nearby bush. “Basically we’re just trying to keep the undergrowth cleared out and keep the cemetery looking nice.”

The cemetery, as the second cemetery in Demopolis, was for a long time referred to as the “new cemetery,” Reynolds said. “Then they built this part (that fronts Jackson Street), and that part became known as the old cemetery.

In addition to cleaning up and maintaining the cemetery, Reynolds said the committee has a job ahead of them in repairing damage from Hurricane Ivan, which nearly destroyed a very special plot.

“There was a man named Carter Strudwick and for many, many years he took care of the cemetery,” she said. “There’s a plaque at the entrance to the new part that dedicates it to him. When Ivan came through it took out some really big cedar trees and they did some terrible damage to the fence around Mr. Strudwick’s grave.”

Reynolds said that damage could not be repaired until more resources were obtained, but she said it would get done.

As the ladies worked trimming hedges and pulling weeds, Tom Compton walked the large cemetery with a handful of American flags, making sure there was a fresh one on every grave of a veteran, daughter of the American Revolution (DAR) or VFW member.

Reynolds said in addition to those working in the cemetery Wednesday, there are others who provided much-needed support in other ways.

“The beautification effort could not be done if it weren’t for the support of Amanda Smith, Austin Caldwell, Linda Teaford and the beautification crew – Norman Brager, Terry Barnes and Tony McClain.

Those lending a hand for the cleanup included Eddins, Sue Sanders, Jane Watson, Martha and Buddy Griffith, Kayte and Thomas Melton, Donnie Sue George Ford, Martha Turner, Tommy Birl, Clara Johnson, Carolyn Spence and Tom Compton.