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Cemetery future is everyone’s responsibility

Former British Prime Minister William Gladstone may have never set foot in Natchez, but the late politician’s words are fitting to remember for Natchez’s citizens.

The American Cemetery magazine attributed the following to Gladstone:

“Show me the manner in which a nation or a community cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender sympathies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.”

The Natchez City Cemetery — a nearly 200-year-old resting place — has found itself in financial difficulty as of late. Earlier this week, volunteers with the Natchez City Cemetery Association reported the group had shown a nearly $12,000 loss last year.

Fortunately, things may be improving — at least in the short-term. The City of Natchez nearly doubled its annual appropriation to the cemetery, going from $36,900 to $72,000 annually.

The city owns the cemetery’s property, but the association handles the property’s upkeep and focuses on renovation and beautification projects.

The cemetery’s annual operating costs are a little more than $250,000.

The Natchez City Cemetery is one of the historical jewels of Natchez, one that has been kept beautiful through a public-private partnership of sorts for more than 75 years. All of us who enjoy the beauty of the cemetery directly or indirectly — by way of tourists who visit the cemetery throughout the year — need to work together to help keep the cemetery afloat.

Gladstone’s words are on point: How we care for our dead speaks volumes about our own hearts.