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Free cookout at Oak Lawn this Saturday

Members of the Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation will hold a cookout as part of its Decoration Day celebration for visitors to one of Suffolk’s oldest African-American cemeteries on Saturday.

The free cookout will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. with burgers, hotdogs, chicken, potato salad and cold drinks at Oak Lawn Cemetery, located on a corner lot behind the city’s Human Resources Building at 440 Market St.

Reginald Dirtion, president of the Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation, said that this cookout is meant to give thanks to the Suffolk community for its support in the foundation’s recent restoration efforts at the cemetery — and also to show appreciation to the families and friends of those buried at the cemetery.

“We just want to show a little appreciation for the help that they’re doing,” Dirtion said.

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 and also repair more severely damaged markers.

The foundation is also looking for volunteers to help with setup starting at 8 a.m. Visit oaklawncemeterysuffolk.com or call 809-7600 for more information.