Benches benefit cemetery

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 3, 2010

NATCHEZ — Cemeteries never die and neither does the work it takes to maintain them.

So the Natchez City Cemetery is selling specially-designed benches to raise money to continue restoring cistern houses in the cemetery and continue upkeep of the cemetery grounds, including perpetual care lots.

Fundraiser chairman and cemetery board of directors member Catherine Ratcliffe said the cemetery is a vital part of Natchez’s history so efforts have to be made to maintain the cemetery and restore portions that have fallen into disrepair such as the cistern houses.

“The work goes on forever,” she said. “The people who paid perpetual care fees years ago, that money is long gone, but the care goes on and that is why we are trying to raise more money.”

The benches were designed and donated by Natchez Monument Company in honor of longtime Natchez Monument Company employee Adrian Trimble and his wife Joess.

They are $500 each and a limited number have been produced, Ratcliffe said. Benches can be purchased by calling Danny Brown, cemetery manager at 601-445-5051.

One bench is on display at the shelter house, which can be accessed through the main entrance.

The largest ongoing maintenance project is the restoration of three cistern houses at the cemetery. One cistern house restoration was recently completed, said Sarabeth Rountree, cistern restoration chairman and board of directors member.

The restored cistern house is located at the end of the road to the right of the cemetery shelter house.

Rountree said families used the historic cistern houses as shade and cover from weather.

“They called them waiting houses and used them when visiting the cemetery,” she said. “The cisterns themselves were used to retrieve and store water that could be used to water flowers and plants at the gravesite.

“These structures are very old and were very important in the early days of the cemetery and very important to the history of the cemetery.”

Restoration work is being done by local construction company Tony DeAngelis Construction.

“We are delighted with the work Tony has done,” Rountree said. “He has been able to restore them to their original beauty, and they are a real work of art.

The restoration project is large in scale since the structures have suffered from several years of neglect, Ratcliffe said.

“Any authentic restoration is very extensive and this project is no different,” Ratcliffe said. “We had three that were in desperate need of attention. They are a part of our history and we don’t want to let them go.”