Jonice Collins of Shawnee visited her family members’ graves at a local cemetery recently but found the visit wasn’t as peaceful as she hoped.
Collins said she was in tears when she left Neal Cemetery in the Earlsboro area because of the condition of the grounds.
Neal Cemetery is located about six miles east of Shawnee and south of SH 3.
During the visit, Collins couldn’t find her mother’s grave because the grass was “up to my hips,” she said.
“It was terrible — it’s heartbreaking,” she said. “As soon as I left there, I cried all the way home.”
Because of what she found, Collins, who said she remembers community service workers had spruced up the small cemetery in recent years, has been making numerous calls but hasn’t had much luck in finding out more about the cemetery’s upkeep.
It turns out that the small, privately owned cemetery really doesn’t have a manager or caretaker and has become the responsibility of the county by default, according to District 1 Pottawatomie County Commissioner Melissa Dennis.
Online records about Neal Cemetery show they were last updated in 2003.
Dennis, who said the cemetery is in her district, said at one time, she believes there were a couple people taking care of the cemetery. But with advancing age and one reportedly deceased, she believes there’s been no one to take care of the cemetery.
Dennis said while she’s not responsible for anyone being buried there, she does have all of the cemetery records at her county office for safekeeping.
In the past, Dennis said community service workers did help out with mowing and upkeep there, but she said her county crews have been contacted about the cemetery over the past couple months.
She said she had a call in August and it was mowed, and she believes it was mowed again in September.
And while’s it’s been difficult for her district crews to even keep up with mowing rights-of-way with all the rainfall, Dennis said now that she’s knows the grass is tall again, she’ll plan to send crews out to work on the area.
“I’ll make sure it’s mowed,” she said.
Page 2 of 2 - That was welcome news to Collins, who said she feels relieved that someone is going to address the problem.
“I would be glad to see that happen,” Collins said. “It hurts to lose somebody and when you see the cemetery in that condition, it’s heartbreaking.”
Collins said she’s relieved to know she’ll soon be able to get close to her family members’ tombstones.
“It gives me resolve that something is going to happen,” she said.
As far as the records, Dennis said if anyone needs access to those or is maybe willing to take over management of the files, she can be reached by calling the county commissioner’s building, 273-4305.