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Cemetery cleanup needs volunteers

The Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation is looking for volunteers to help in a Saturday cleanup for one of Suffolk’s oldest African-American cemeteries.

The cleanup will take place on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Oak Lawn Cemetery, located on a corner lot behind the city’s Human Resources Building at 440 Market St. Volunteers may come as early as 8:30 a.m. to help set up tents, as well.

Dirt, wheelbarrows, shovels and gloves will be provided, as well as bug spray and trash bags. Volunteers will rake the area, cut down shrubbery and fill in the holes that have formed in graves at the cemetery. Refreshments and tents for shade will also be available for volunteers.

The cemetery dates back to the late 19th century and there are hundreds buried in the lot, including John W. Richardson, president of the Phoenix Bank of Nansemond, and Wiley H. Crocker, founder of the Tidewater Fair Association and Nansemond Development Corporation.

There are also veterans of Vietnam, Korea and World Wars I and II. Lt. William H. Walker, a Tuskegee Airman, is among them.

Legislation passed this year by the General Assembly will provide state funding to help maintain Oak Lawn Cemetery and other African-American cemeteries throughout the state. The foundation will receive funding to clean, maintain and reset headstones for each one that is counted, and also repair more severely damaged markers.

Reginald Dirtion, president of the Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation, said that this Saturday’s cleanup and other upcoming ones require volunteer support to help clear the way to identifying and counting more markers.

“Come on out and help us get the cemetery right,” Dirtion said in a phone interview.

Visit oaklawncemeterysuffolk.com for more information.