Grave issues get attention

Friday, November 2, 2012

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

The city's largest cemetery has a big problem with monuments leaning over, and even falling down.

As Lone Oak Cemetery's "only living resident," City Manager Tommy Engram sees the problem every day.

"I've never seen one as snaggle-toothed as this one," Engram said, showing Cemetery Advisory Committee members a PowerPoint about the monuments.

"It's not just the tall stones," Engram told them Tuesday, and it's not just the old ones. He showed pictures of monuments put up in the last 10 years sinking to one side.

"The reason is lack of foundation," the City Manager said. All too often, he explained, workmen setting the monument use the "shake and bake" method, where they dig out the turf, spread a couple of sacks of dry concrete mix, damp it down and set the stone.

The industry standard, Engram said, is to require monuments to be set on a four-inch poured concrete base, but even this doesn't always work.

Recently Engram was in Pulaski on other business and took a look at its cemetery, which is bigger than Lone Oak, and has graves dating back to the Civil War era. There, he said, the monuments are all standing up straight.

On inquiring, Engram found that the City of Pulaski has turned its cemetery over to a perpetual care vendor, and a company employee straightens the stones as needed.

Engram has asked the city attorney to look into whether Lewisburg can - or should - straighten the monuments in the cemetery it owns.

He also showed committee members a YouTube video from Missouri in which the man installing the monument recommends a two-foot deep concrete foundation, with deeper piers in the corners.

"I don't agree with the two-foot down part," said visitor Aubrey Duncan, former owner of London Funeral Home. "Most of our monuments are OK," he said. "A lot of the secret is putting some steel" in the concrete foundation.

The committee lacked a quorum, so members could not vote on any decisions.

Chairman Odie Whitehead Jr. reported that the new flagpoles had been erected at the graves of the two Tennessee governors who are buried in Lone Oak, Jim Nance McCord (1879-1968) and Buford Ellington (1907-1972). New flags have been ordered, Whitehead said, but they will only be flown for Decoration Day.

Whitehead praised Marshall County prisoners for the good job they are doing in the cemetery, and Engram agreed with him.

"They take pride in what they do out there," he said, recounting how he had overheard one prisoner scolding another for the sloppy job of trimming he had done.

"People don't know what we'd have to pay for all that labor," Whitehead exclaimed.

Public Works Department Manager Kenny Ring expanded on this, stating, "Ten years ago, there were five full-time workers out there."

Mayor Barbara Woods added she'd seen some prisoners she recognized from her days as a teacher and principal.

"Last time I saw you, you were in class," Woods said she told one of them. She reported Marshall County Solid Waste Director Morgan Thomas is trying to figure out how to help some of the prisoners he has working on the recycling line make the transition to life as free men, perhaps by giving them jobs for a limited period.