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New owners showcase cemetery

Carver Memorial Cemetery, beleaguered by a history of problems created by its former owners, has turned a corner.

Bishop Ted Thomas Sr., a religious leader with the Church of God in Christ in Portsmouth, and Richard Tavss, a Norfolk attorney, bought the East Washington Street cemetery that has historically served Suffolk’s black community last June.

Since buying the property at auction, the two have made significant enhancements.

Last Monday, during an event at the Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center, the pair unveiled those improvements before more than 150 Hampton Roads’ funeral home representatives.

Along with clearing the site, cutting grass, and designing a new entrance complete with gas lights, Tavss and Thomas have renovated the office at the cemetery, said Gail Turner, sales manager at the cemetery.

A mausoleum with more than 400 crypts and an 80-seat chapel is under construction, Turner said. The building will be complete next year.

“Carver Memorial Cemetery is now ready to serve the interment needs of Suffolk and become an asset to the city,” said Turner.

Several city officials were among the guests at Monday’s event, including Assistant City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn, Planning Director Scott Mills and City Councilman Joseph Barlow.

Although Mayor Bobby L. Ralph did not attend, he believes the new owners’ investments in the cemetery are paying off.

”I think things are positive and on the upswing at Carver Memorial Cemetery,” said Ralph. “Things are looking positive and they are working hard to make things work.”

Over the last five years, the cemetery has switched hands twice.

The city auctioned off the property for back taxes owed by former owner Abraham Applewhite, who had his funeral director’s license revoked by the state.

Two Virginia Beach investors, William Mann and W. Michael Robinson, bought the cemetery at auction two years ago. They decided to sell the property earlier this year in order to get it back into the hands of a professional cemetery operator.

Staff writer Allison T. Williams contributed to this story.