Volunteers needed to help clean historic Hampton cemetery

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HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Ahead of Memorial Day weekend, a former state delegate is putting out a call for help. She wants to clean up the Elmerton Cemetery in Hampton.

“It hasn’t looked this way in years,” said Dr. Mary Christian.  “I can remember as a little girl how our parents kept the cemeteries.” 

Dr. Mary Christian remembers cleaning the Elmerton Cemetery as a child. Her foundation, the Barrett- Peake Heritage Foundation, has been making sure the cemetery is cleared for the last two decades. Volunteers haven’t been able to get out there in the last few months, though, because of all the rain we’ve had, so Dr. Christian is asking the community to step up and help ahead of Memorial Day. 

Currently, the grass and weeds are almost taller than many of the tombstones.

“It hurts my heart to see it looking like this,” said Dr. Christian.  “When I sent out the email I said, ‘SOS, emergency, alert, our cemeteries are a disaster’.”

The cemetery has been around for centuries and is the final resting place for many emancipated African American slaves. 

“Here in this cemetery, we have people who have helped to build Hampton,” she said. 

Dr. Christian hopes people of all ages and abilities come out, help clean up and pay their respects. 

“If they are able to cut grass and do weed eaters. If not, we’re asking them to bring a flower, a flag or donation to buy more flowers.  We want all the grave sites cleared and decorated for Memorial Day. That’s our goal,” said Dr. Christian. 

Mary Peake is among those buried in Elmerton Cemetery. She was one of the first teachers of newly free slaves.

The clean up is this Saturday, May 25 from 6 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.. You can find the cemetery on King Street, just past the intersection of Pembroke Avenue. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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