He just wanted to help the cemetery look better

Jan. 07, 2014 @ 09:27 PM

John Weaver has volunteered about 400 hours of service clearing weeds, digging up tree stumps and replacing headstones in the Rock Bridge Cemetery, where two of his relatives are buried.

The Vance County native was recognized for his contribution to the cemetery preservation effort Tuesday night at the Rock Bridge Cemetary Preservation meeting.

The preservation group, which formed nearly two years ago, and the Walmart Distribution Center in Henderson have taken on the labor intensive task of restoring and maintaining a cemetery that has endured many years of neglect.

“It was so overgrown, it was like going into a jungle,” said John Faucette, a member of the preservation group. “You didn’t know if you were going to make it out once you went in.”

Corey Bierly, general manager at the distribution center, said his staff took interest in the cemetery while trying to find a local community service project in Henderson.

“Walmart is always trying to do things for the community, but we hadn’t done much in Henderson,” he said. “We were driving around, the cemetery is only a mile away, and we saw a sign that said ‘volunteers needed.’”

When the distribution center chose to get involved in the cemetery preservation project, Weaver was eager to participate.

“I like to beautify the community,” Weaver said. “I want to make it look good.”

Audrey Tippett, a member of the preservation group, said Weaver helped reconstruct a gravestone belonging to her great-grandparents.

“The headstone had fallen off its base,” she said. “I don’t know how it fell or when it fell, and I had no idea how I was going to get it upright because I knew I couldn’t do it.”

Weaver, along with a couple other volunteers, decided to fix several broken headstones, including the one belonging to Tippett’s relatives.

“They did a fantastic job of it,” she said.

Faucette said the cemetery was used by Harriet & Henderson employees until the cotton mill donated the land to Vance County in 1981.

He said the cemetery was passed on to the Welcome Chapel Baptist Church more than a decade ago, and has stayed under the church’s owership since then.

The preservation group is planning to spread dirt in the coming months and have grass growing by the spring. It is also in the process of becoming a nonprofit organization.

“We want to preserve this as a memorial cemetery where families can come back and honor the ones they love,” Weaver said.

 

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.