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Greenwood Cemetery: A ‘holy sleeping place’

By Kay S. Pedrotti Through the tears, pride, history and sentiment of last week’s rededication ceremonies at Greenwood Cemetery, a lone mockingbird offered a song of gladness to accompany the many words. What has been accomplished at the cemetery, with the help of many people, sets the path for the continued protection and beautification of Greenwood, said Hedy Cauthen in welcoming remarks. Cauthen is president of the Greenwood Cemetery Preservation Association Inc., which grew out of projects began in 2010 by the Azalea Garden Club. ’The cemetery is part of the history and heritage of Barnesville,’ said Cauthen. It was established on very small acreage in 1830 by Josiah Holmes, initially as the property of the First Methodist Church, with the first two burials in 1837. Since Catherine Ansley and her father were buried, the cemetery began its expansion to about 40 acres when the church deeded the land to the city, said Barnesville Mayor Peter Banks, main speaker for the event. The work of the garden club and GCPA have ‘added beauty and utility to the historic significance of the cemetery,’ he added. Besides the many distinguished citizens and founders of Barnesville, Banks said, the cemetery is the resting place of those who died in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Spanish-American War, Korea, Vietnam and ‘countless conflicts’ around the world. ’It is my hope and prayer,’ Banks added, ‘that our young people will not only enjoy having the beautiful cemetery and other amenities of the city but will strengthen and preserve them for generations to come.’ Rev. Dana Overton-Garrett’s words of inspiration included a brief story of her connections with a family cemetery in Wichita, Kansas, including having been the presiding minister at her grandmother’s graveside service. Cemeteries are among the places that move us, she said. Cemeteries connect memory and imagination: the mundane and the sacred; past, present and future; life, death and life eternal, she noted. ’A cemetery is so much more than a place to rest the remains of those who have died,’ she said. ‘It is a place of connecting stories … in mysterious, sacred and eternal ways. In the Christian tradition we do not believe that it is our final resting place. Still, it is a place where we can go and feel connected to those who have passed as we remember and honor their lives, mourn their passing, and give thanks for them as they live on, in and through us, and we look forward to the day when we will meet them again in life eternal.’ First Baptist Church pastor Garth Forster read from I Thessalonians 4:13-18, noting the Greek word-origin for ‘cemetery’ is one which means ‘sleeping place.’ Cemeteries are temporary places for our spirits but not the end, he said. In remarks before his final prayer and blessing of the cemetery, Rev. Jimmy Lyons of East Mount Sinai Baptist Church said, ‘the news that Jesus Christ was resurrected came from a cemetery.’ Give God the glory, he said, ‘because if cemeteries are sleeping places, that means one day we will wake up and be with the Lord.’ Many older citizens of Barnesville attended the event, including Peggy Tyus O’Dell, whose daughter, husband, grandparents and great-grandparents are buried in Greenwood. Her grandfather, S.M. Howard, served on the board of commissioners at the time he drew out the family plot, she said. Howard would tell people he didn’t have much education but he did ‘become a landscape architect,’ O’Dell said. The officers’ color guard, comprising Dep. Maria Gebelein and Sgt., Michael Bailey of the Lamar County Sheriff’s office and Officer Jesse Blackmon and Lt. Ernie McWhorter of the Barnesville Police department, installed the dedicatory American Flag on the flagpole donated by Woodmen of the World. Boy Scout troops 17 and 18, bagpiper Leon Ross, and bugler Ernie Thompson were participants and soloist Tim Turner sang the National Anthem.

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