Grave concerns

Want a burial plot in Tupelo?

Cost is $250. Plots are still available at Tupelo Memorial Gardens and Porters Memorial Cemetery. Call Tupelo Public Works Department for details at 841-6457.

BY ANDY KANENGISER
Daily Journal

TUPELO – “Love's Remembrance Lasts Forever” is the message on a prominent tombstone at Glenwood Cemetery.

A nearby marker at the cemetery near Church Street School refers to another deceased couple as “Mama and Papa.” With Memorial Day approaching, miniature U.S. flags flutter over graves to honor soldiers.

If you're thinking about your own eternal resting place in Tupelo, your choices are getting slim. Glenwood and Springhill cemeteries are full, but space still is available at newer Tupelo Memorial Gardens and Porter's Memorial Cemetery.

“That is something that will be addressed in the not-too-distant future,” Mayor Ed Neelly said Thursday. Maintaining cemeteries “is not a natural for city government. If free enterprise would provide it, we will look at it to fulfill the need.''

The city's cemetery business is a losing proposition, City Council President Dick Hill said.

Billy Curl, a helicopter pilot who recently retired from the Mississippi National Guard with duty in Iraq and is a licensed funeral director in Arkansas and Tennessee, may be part of the solution.

The Olive Branch native, under contract to fly the city's police helicopter, said Thursday he's looking at two pieces of city property.

“I'm in the planning stages as we speak,” said the 39-year-old Curl, who is working with a couple of local investors.

Launched in the 1870s, Glenwood is the final resting place of former Congressman John Allen and some Civil War veterans. Glenwood is not selling any more plots. It has 2,273 graves.

Like Glenwood, there's is no space left at the historically black Springhill Cemetery off North Green Street. Once maintained by the church, it contains about 500 graves.

Options left

Tupelo's two newer cemeteries still offer burial options.

Established in 1953, Tupelo Memorial Gardens near Joyner School could be out of burial space in a few years. It has 2,494 graves. But there's plenty of space at 767-grave Porter's Memorial Cemetery, which opened in the 1960s and is one-third full.

Tupelo's four city-maintained cemeteries are cared for by three full-time workers and one part-timer. They mainly mow the grass.

Until told otherwise, Sid Russell, who helps oversee the cemeteries as part of his job with the public works department, said city officials will continue to sell Tupelo cemetery plots.

The price is $250 for a 5-by-10-foot plot. Cremations have increased in recent years, Russell said, and, in some cases, two are buried in one plot.

City leaders are weighing costs as they prepare a budget for the new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

Russell, who has been keeping up with the city cemeteries here the past 18 years, said a new one could work because “there always will be a need.''

Contact Andy Kanengiser at 678-1590 or andy.kanengiser@djournal.com