Prairie Cemetery dedication held Oct. 11

Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Prairie Cemetery Dedication, pictured from left: Karen Riddle, Steele, Mo.; Harold Hutcheson, Paragould; Brenda Hutcheson and Donnie Hutcheson, Lake City; Wilma Freeman and Ron Freeman, Jonesboro; Marralee Neal and Shirley Smith Craig, Lepanto. (Photo provided/Nan Snider)

A special service was held Oct. 11 to dedicate the Prairie Cemetery, east of Lunsford on Craighead County Road 812.

Work on the overgrown cemetery began Feb. 4 and was spearheaded by Brenda and Donnie Hutcheson of Lake City. Together they undertook a campaign to restore it and find the names of people buried there.

“A project of this magnitude could not be possible without many people being involved and willing to help,” Mrs. Hutcheson said. “Words cannot express the thanks that Donnie and I have for those who made contributions toward the restoration of the cemetery. We especially thank Ron and Wilma Freeman and the descendants of the D.T. Watkins family, who helped in so many ways right from the beginning. We have received many monetary donations and hours of work by volunteers toward making this day possible.”

“If the cemetery had not been cleaned up, we may have never found the graves of my great-grandfather, D.T. Watkins, and his family,” Wilma Freeman said. “Through this effort we were able to locate and place five markers on their graves and come here to pay our respects.”

Despite the cold and windy Wednesday weather, a large group gathered to pay tribute to the completion of the restoration and to formally dedicate the Prairie Cemetery.

The dedication program began at 10 a.m., with Brenda Hutcheson welcoming the group to the cemetery. Special music was provided by Jennifer Short, Barbara Knight and Heavyn Hadl. Lake City Mayor Jon Milligan shared memories of his ancestors who are buried there and thanked the workers who restored the cemetery.

“This is just like a step back in time,” Lunsford Baptist Church pastor Ron Langston said. “The people buried here spent a part of their lives living here.”

A large monument was placed at the cemetery bearing the names of the people buried there along with the 23rd Psalm. The stone was provided by donations and built by the Northeast Arkansas Monument Company.

Harold Hutcheson, a cousin to Donnie Hutcheson, constructed and donated a large steel archway at the entrance of the cemetery.

Marralee Smith Neal, of Lepanto, represented members of the Watkins family by presenting the Hutchesons with a $1,395 gift from Northeast Arkansas Monuments to place a companion stone in the cemetery for Brenda and Donnie Hutcheson, who expressed a desire to be buried there after their deaths.  

“This place use to be used as a trash heap, but now it’s a place to honor those buried here,” Mrs. Hutcheson said. “It just makes my heart smile.”

Refreshments were served to the guests following the services.

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