This man deserves some help

Published 3:57 pm Monday, July 25, 2011

When the 6-foot-tall Tracy Stewart visited a cemetery near his old stomping grounds a few months ago and found the grass growing over his head, he knew he would have to do something.

Stewart grew up around the corner from Oak Lawn Cemetery, where the city’s most prominent black ministers, bankers, public officials and businessmen are buried. He spent his days as a boy playing in and around the cemetery.

But that was in the days when it was well cared for. Up until a few short months ago, no young boys played in the cemetery — unless, of course, they were looking for a great hiding place for hide-and-go-seek. In fact, young children were liable to get lost in the cemetery, with the grass growing taller than an adult.

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So Stewart set about to make the cemetery a habitable place again, one where family members at least could visit loved ones’ graves. He started by mowing the cemetery with the help of inmates from the Western Tidewater Regional Jail, just in time for the Memorial Day holiday. Previously, the Disabled American Veterans chapter was keeping up the veterans’ portion of the cemetery.

Then, he called a meeting at a local church for people who want to help clean up the cemetery. About 20 people attended the meeting, and officers were elected.

A foundation to care for the cemetery has been formed, and Stewart scheduled a community clean-up day for Saturday.

When I arrived at the cemetery on the hot and humid morning, though, I found only Stewart there, wielding a backpack full of weed-killer on a back portion of the cemetery.

Clearly disappointed, he said two people had been there earlier and helped him mow the grass, but they left around midmorning. There still was weed-whacking to be done, but he would have to leave that for another day.

Stewart was undaunted, saying he would plan another clean-up event for the fall, when it will be cooler. Still, it’s hard to figure out why many people told him they would come and then didn’t show up.

The heat probably had something to do with it. But a little responsibility — to one’s own promises and to the community at large — could have made up for that.

I sure hope the next clean-up day goes better. You can watch the Suffolk News-Herald calendar to see when it’s scheduled. You can also attend the next meeting of the foundation, set for Aug. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 112 Mahan St.

For more information on the foundation, call Stewart at 434-6713.