Historic Mary’s Chapel Cemetery needs help

RECTOR, AR (KAIT) - Mary's Chapel cemetery located just outside Rector, has been around since the 1800's and is still an active cemetery. The problem is there is practically no money available for upkeep.

The cemetery became a community cemetery in the 50's when it was relinquished by the Methodist church.

Cemetery Trustee James Turner walked me through the cemetery and we paused by his parents headstone under a huge Oak tree.

"It was turned loose as a community cemetery and it was free." Turner said. "But since donations have been down we have had to charge a hundred dollars per plot."

In the Copeland family plot area lies Mary Copeland, the first burial in the 1800's and for whom the cemetery is named. It's small with 8 acres of active burial grounds and 2 more undeveloped acres lying in the rolling hills. Even as small as it is, Turner said it's not cheap to maintain.

"It takes from 18 hundred to 22 hundred a year to keep it mowed depending on the rain." Turner says it costs around 160 dollars or more each time it is mowed.

Smaller donations and an occasional plot sale doesn't keep pace with expenses.

They had to cash out a C. D. early to pay for several mowing's this year.

Turner, "The interest didn't even pay the fee because we cashed it in early."

The ironic part of this story is that they have money, they have quite a bit of money developed in a trust fund over the years. But they can't access the lump sum because of a clause when the trust fund was set up. All they can use is the interest.

And Turner says in recent economic times that hasn't been much. "With the interest down below 1 percent we made 166 dollars and some cents last year." Turner said, "That barely paid for one mowing."

There aren't many corners they can cut.

Turner, "Some mentioned just spraying the cemetery, just kill it. But it's too beautiful right now to do that."

Total donations for the year are only at 450 dollars. Now the cemetery association is reaching out to families of those buried in the cemetery.

"Donate 10 dollars, 200 people buried in the cemetery, that means 200 families, that would be 2 thousand dollars and that would maintain the cemetery for the year." said Turner.

Not a lot to ask for this peaceful garden of stone and history.

Turner, "Everyone that will bury their dead, they want it to be in a beautiful cemetery that is kept good and that's our goal."

To purchase a burial plot or arrange for a donation, you can call James Turner at 870-595-2459

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