By CALVIN ADKINS
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
PRINCEVILLE — On Thursday, Milton Bullock pointed to his grandparents' grave markers in the cemetery on N.C. 111 that reads Maude Bullock and John Richard Bullock. Although his loved ones' markers were visible, there are hundreds of others that grass has overgrown and covered, making an eyesore out of the cemetery. For Bullock, Thursday marked a long time between visits because he is so disgusted by the appearance of the resting place of his loved ones.
At first, Bullock's disgust turned to anger. He recently channeled that anger in a positive direction by forming a project to cleanup the cemetery.
The Princeville native and former member of the world renown singing group, "The Platters," has scheduled a meeting from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Friday, May 18 at Greenwood Community Center Building in Princeville and he is inviting all "concerned and able-bodied persons" to attend.
"It's an eyesore," Bullock said. "It's sad to see the predicament that this cemetery is in. Something needs to be done about it and it will with the help of our citizens and other organizations."
The purpose of the meeting is to discuss various means of rejuvenating and maintaining the cosmetic aspects of the cemetery, Bullock said. He hopes of coordinating volunteer groups to periodically maintain the roadways and cleanup detail to maintain the sacred grounds.
The cemetery may be in the worst shape that it has been in in several years. Grass stands at least two-feet high in most areas while remnants of flower debris is scattered throughout the area. Several dead trees that have fallen contribute to the unwanted appearance.
Edgecombe County historian Rudolph Knight said that seven cemeteries are on that site. The most popular names are Dancy, Community and Wilson. Knight said a Carney, Irwin and a pauper's cemetery also are on those grounds. Greenwood is the newest cemetery and is separated by a wood line. It is privately owned and well-maintained.
Wilson Cemetery is the oldest and marks the final resting places grounds of former slaves, including Turner Prince, the man for whom Princeville is named. Abraham Wooten, the pastor of Mt. Zion Primitive Baptist Church is another notable who is buried in Wilson.
Unfortunately there are no direct owners for the cemeteries to force them clean it up. J.T. Willoughby III, president of Hemby-Willoughby Mortuary, said the burial plots belong to individual people.
"The cemetery is not the property of the town (of Princeville) and it doesn't have one owner," Willoughby said. "No one is generating profit from the cemetery. A long time ago, plots were sold in a group of 10."
Willoughby explained that the owners of those plots sometime use them or sell them to others. Over the years, Willoughby said he has as well as his father the late J.T. Willoughby Jr. have assisted with cleaning the cemetery. He also mentioned cleanups that were done by inmates from the N.C. Department of Correction and other organizations. Although the cemeteries are seldom used, Willoughby said he would like to see another cleanup detail. This time, a detail that will include the continuance of perpetual care.
"I think it will be great to come up with some type of plan so that it will not get back into the condition that it is in now," he said. "I applaud Mr. Bullock for what he is trying to do. I will do whatever I can to assist."
Bullock also has the support of Keep America Beautiful and some local churches and organizations. But that's not enough.
"We can clean this cemetery and make it a place where we can be proud that our loves one are in," he said. "But I need your help. Hopefully the concerted efforts will be consumed and embraced and shall be indoctrinate within the future generations here and now and yet to come. And simultaneously, reinforcing self-respect, pride and the respect for our deceased-beloved ones, with hopes it shall be a continued consistency with the entire community's involvement."
For more information contact Milton Bullock at 823-3740.