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Fuller house full of tales to be told at Lone Oak

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

(Photo)
Photo by Clint Confehr  Lewisburg City Manager Eddie Fuller lives in what's probably best described as the caretaker's house in Lone Oak Cemetery.
Lewisburg City Manager Eddie Fuller lives in a house owned by the city, a fact of daily living he described in some detail last week when asked about the arrangement which is and is not like living in the White House.

Differences between the two include the color of the bricks. They're yellow at Fuller's home. The President's residence is on the second floor of what's otherwise a federal office building. And while Fuller's home may have a basement, he commutes to City Hall from a very quiet neighborhood.

You see, Eddie Fuller, his wife and their pets live in what was the caretaker's residence in one of the cemeteries owned by the city.

"When the last caretaker resigned, we asked 2-3 people if they wanted it" as a residence, Fuller said of discussions at City Hall almost a decade ago.

With no takers, Fuller said, "I approached the city council about it."

That was in 1999. Fuller had been city manager for about five years.

"I was single at the time," Fuller said. "The house was available and I asked the council if they minded if I lived there in lieu of a pay raise."

There was an agreement struck between the manager and the council, he said.

Mayor Bob Phillips substantiates the story as retold by Fuller. The agreement grew from budget preparation discussions and all involved at the time were apparently comfortable with the idea which was consummated by adopting the budget that year.

It wasn't like Fuller had no connection to the cemetery. Beyond the city management of issues that arise around a cemetery, he'd worked his way up the ranks to being city manager and since 1976, Fuller had been the go-to man when someone wanted to buy a cemetery plot.

"I went into the house and then there was about a six year period without a pay raise," Fuller said of the arrangement.

Some additional duties came with the house, he said. Some of them are easy.

"In the summer, I walk my dog there," Fuller said while discussing night watchman duties.

Other duties that include the house and cemetery might be seen as those of a city manager, although in a much larger city, a caretaker might have been the official who had to deal with a situation that arose with a dog named Bubblegum.

The dog died and the owner was sad. Then, without explaining much of anything, the owner purchased a plot and grave opening, explaining that they'd take care of closing the grave. An assumption was made that perhaps a newborn had died and the family wanted privacy.

However, the fact that a dog named Bubblegum was buried in a city cemetery became known pretty quickly throughout this small town and someone in city management had to deal with the situation. That included Fuller.

Survivors of his neighbors didn't like the idea that a dog was buried near grandma, and so the city had to persuade Bubblegum's bereaved master that the faithful friend had to be exhumed and reburied. The new grave proved to be problematic because of rocky ground under topsoil where Bubblegum rests to this day.

Fuller openly tells that tale while walking across the lawn at Lone Oak Cemetery where groundskeepers also mow the grass around his home. The industrial strength mowers move across the grass from between headstones to grass around the yellow-brick house and the swipes taken there take all of about five minutes.

For those who pay maintenance fees at condominiums, it might seem like a worthwhile perk for an executive, but then there are the duties dealing with the cemetery.

Another example Fuller cites is about 10 years old, but one never knows what could happen next.

A man in his 20s went to his mother's grave site and started to dig down into the ground.

"He'd been there all night," Fuller said. "We found about 30 cigarette butts there."

What the mother's son didn't know is that graves aren't done the way the popular belief would lead one to conclude about being "six feet under."

"He dug down to his mother's vault," Fuller said.

The top of most vaults, used to protect the casket, is about 18 inches below the surface of the cemetery ground. In fact, most people aren't "six feet under" when they're buried. Frequently, the bottom of the grave is only four feet down, depending on the casket and the vault.

A specific reason for the man's decision to dig toward his mother's grave may remain as silent as the cemetery at midnight. However, as Fuller recalls the chain of events, the situation ended with police persuading the man to surrender at the station and when he was taken into custody, he was found to be in possession of a green leafy substance which was believed to be marijuana.

Mayor Phillips recalls, "We did have someone who exposed himself to a lady walker" at the cemetery.

Yet there are wilder tails at the cemetery.

"We have deer in the cemetery, and wild turkeys and you'll see a fox there," Fuller says.

And there are more quiet moments.

"We have street lights in the cemetery and at times, my wife, Mary Ann, and I will get out and walk around," Fuller said.

As for how Fuller became a resident of the city-owned house in Lone Oak Cemetery, the mayor says, "We felt like we needed somebody out there and Eddie volunteered.

"And he was between wives at the time," Phillips said, quickly adding that's just a situation faced by many people across America today. "I've been there, so..."

The yellow brick house is a three-bedroom residence. It's located on the "back side" of the cemetery, and one can walk a short distance from the house and look toward the Lewisburg Public Square and see the clocks on top of the Marshall County Courthouse.

There's another house near the grand entrance to the cemetery. It's not to be confused with what was built as a modest home for a cemetery caretaker.

Fuller says he pays his own utility bills, but that wasn't the case for previous residents of the house that was remodeled in the 1970s.

"Kirby Murphy lived there for about 20 years," Fuller said of the city's former street department superintendent. "And he got a check for being a caretaker."

Murphy has since gone on to be like Fuller's neighbors.

The yellow brick house, the White House and the president's mansion on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University, or the administrator's home at the Alvin C. York Veterans Administration Medical Center in Murfreesboro aren't the only dwellings provided for public employees.

Fuller notes that park rangers have homes provided.

They're easily found at state and federal parks. There are several at Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro.

And, there's an apartment at the Lewisburg recreation center that's been used by the director there, Fuller said.

Some people are just that close to their work.