Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery receives $28K grant to help preserve it

Published 7:15 pm Friday, February 11, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Dominion Energy presented a $28,000 grant to the Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation that will go toward much-needed preservation work at the cemetery.

A number of people, including several foundation board members, descendants, City Manager Al Moor, Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett, Councilmen Lue Ward and LeOtis Williams, were in attendance for the Feb. 9 ceremony at the cemetery, located on a corner lot behind the city’s Human Resources Building at 440 Market St.

“We’re honored to support the Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery in downtown Suffolk,” said Bonita Harris, director of media relations for Dominion Energy. “It’s important for us to remember and honor those who came before us, on whose shoulders we stand. Several local leaders and veterans are buried here, dating back to the Civil War, including Tuskegee Airman Lt. William H. Walker. They contributed so much to our community and our country.”

Email newsletter signup

Hundreds of people are buried there, with some markers dating back to the 1800s. Among them are John W. Richardson, president of the Phoenix Bank of Nansemond, and Wiley H. Crocker, founder of the Tidewater Fair Association and Nansemond Development Corporation. Besides the community leaders, veterans who served in Vietnam, Korea and World Wars I and II are buried there.

Reginald Dirtion, president of the Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation, said it was very happy to receive the grant, and that the money from it will be put to good use in taking care of some longstanding issues at the cemetery.

He said many volunteers and groups such as First Baptist Church Mahan, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, have helped out over the years with donations of time and money in caring for the cemetery, but the money will allow it to accelerate work to spruce it up.

“We have a lot of veterans out there … and they’re going to continue to work with us in trying to get other things done,” Dirtion said, “because we’ve been struggling for two or three years trying to figure out how we were going to get funds to keep this cemetery going.”

He said in some places, trees and tree limbs have fallen over and are obscuring and damaging the graves, and some headstones are cracked and broken. There are also potholes scattered in there it would like to repair.

“It will be a big help for the cemetery,” Dirtion said. “Hopefully the (City) Council will come on board and try to help us out, the city manager, if they can come in and give us some nice trash cans to put out there.”

Want to help?

Anyone wanting to donate money to the Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation to help preserve the cemetery can call Reginald Dirtion at 757-679-4358.