Doyle Gilbert is proud to be back on the job caring for the Manila Cemetery. Gilbert worked two and half years as grounds keeper at the cemetery several years ago. He returned to the job in April.
(Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)
Gilbert takes pride in caring for the cemetery. It is a big job as he mows, cares for the gravesites after burial, keeps the dead flowers picked up, and works on the mower when it is needed.
He goes the extra mile and tries to keep the headstones in good repair. Gilbert loads his mower with flags and when he sees gravesite areas in need of extra dirt, he marks it with the flag so he can come back to place dirt around the headstones. If a headstone is in need of straightening, he will do his best to make the adjustments.
"I'd like to fix all of them," he said. "There are a lot of headstones in need of repair."
According to the inscription on the stone, Edward Smith was born July 10, 1826 and died June 29, 1885. His wife, Annie Bollinger Smith was born in July 1827 and died June 12, 1898. On the back of the headstone, the inscription says, E. Smith and Annie Bollinger married the first Sunday in September, 1847 and settled this place in 1852.
"There is a small stone at the back of the maintenance building and I have not been able to find out about it," Gilbert said. "We can't find any records of anyone buried there but the stone has the name Maggie L. Matthews, 1879 to 1934 inscribed. I have asked a lot of people but no one knows about it."
It is just inside the fenced in area of the shop.
"There was a fire and the records were destroyed and we have a lot of areas in the old cemetery with no records," Gilbert said. "Everyone should mark their loved ones graves with just a large stone, brick, or even a homemade cross. The landscape changes through the years, more graves are added and it is so easy to forget the exact spots."
Gilbert said as he is mowing, names and dates on the headstones catch his attention. He encourages people to remove dead flowers from their loved ones gravesites.
"I pick up a lot of dead flowers," he said. "I will not mow over them."
In addition to mowing, he does his best to keep the grass and weeds removed from around the headstones where the mower can't get to.
It is a big job, especially in the mowing season, but Gilbert does his best to keep it done. During the winter months he has more time to spend on the gravesites and making repairs on the mowers.
"I'm always looking for ways to make it better," he said. "When I travel out of town I stop and take notice of other cemeteries."
Gilbert said he is glad to be back caring for the cemetery.