Cemetery expansion causing temporary move for ceremony

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 11, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Flags will grace the grave sites at the Natchez National Cemetery for Memorial Day weekend. A traditional avenue of official colors will lead into the old burial grounds holding remains of 6,800 veterans and their family members.

The May 26 Memorial Day service, however, will move for this year only to Memorial Park, the cemetery’s director Peter Young said.

A 15-acre expansion of the cemetery across the road and along the river bluff will not be completed in time to allow the annual program to be held there. &uot;And there is no open space in the old part of the cemetery where 500 to 1,000 people can stand without being all over the grave sites,&uot; Young said.

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Hoping that the first section of the new expansion, an area directly across from the main entrance on Cemetery Road, would be ready in time to hold the Memorial Day program there, Young found the timing would be wrong.

&uot;We might have been close; but with fresh sod over the area, we couldn’t see having people all over it and potentially having to redo what is a costly project,&uot; he said.

Memorial Park will be both appropriate and beautiful for the service, Young said. Speakers and musicians are lined up, and he anticipates an excellent program.

&uot;I can’t think of a better place to have the program off the cemetery site,&uot; Young said.

Still, the National Cemetery will be open and adorned for the occasion. &uot;We will encourage people to come, especially school children,&uot; he said. &uot;We’ll put the flags up on Friday, the 23rd, so the cemetery will be all dressed up over the weekend.&uot;

The first section of the expansion should be complete in June, when the cemetery could begin to schedule burials there.

A notable burial site in the cemetery is that of Civil War veteran Wilson Brown, an African American who was awarded the Medal of Honor because of his heroic actions aboard a ship during the Battle of Mobile Bay.

With the exception of family members of those already buried in the old section, there will be no more interments there, Young said.

The expansion project, with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel acting as project managers, is estimated to cost more than $3 million.

Included in the plans will be 2,100 new grave sites as well as a covered structure to be used by families during burial services.

&uot;That committal shelter will be fairly open air, but will have some brick work and columns, fairly decorative,&uot; Young said. &uot;It will be a great place for us to use next year for the Memorial Day services.&uot;

Also in the new area will be a maintenance facility, where public restrooms will be located. &uot;And there will be an electric kiosk, where you can type in a name and get a print-out of the location of the grave and a small map to show you how to get there.&uot;