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Grave condition: cemetery care

Loved ones leave mementos, such as this snowman at graves. -- Chris Wasson

When walking through a cemetery, have you ever wondered what happens to the gifts left behind at markers?

Michael Pettaway, superintendent for Selma’s Cemetery Department, said nothing happens to them, but that visitors should be cautious when leaving their gifts for loved ones.

“People can bring artificial flowers, wreaths, crosses, live plants etc,” Pettaway said. “Though people bring glass, it is recommended that they don’t. It’s not our responsibility if something gets broken or stolen.”

Pettaway said items left at the gravesites are stolen all the time. In addition, Pettaway said items are only thrown away if they are old or make an area look cluttered.

“If items are torn or look old, they’re thrown away,” Pettaway said. “We don’t like to keep too many flowers either — one at the most, because they collect bugs, bees and snakes.”

From dusk to dawn, Pettaway and his crew of nine, mow and weed four properties — Live Oak, Old Live Oak, New Live Oak and Elmwood Cemeteries — and fill in sunken graves. Lincoln Cemetery is also included.

Pettaway said it’s busy during the holidays.

“Many come out on Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas and Thanksgiving to visit relatives,” Pettaway said.

Pettaway added funds from the city help with the cemeteries’ upkeep.

“I have a budget, where I can buy equipment from,” Pettaway said. “Whatever I need to use to help me manage the property — lawnmower, weed eater, gas etc, that’s what I buy. Surviving family members can donate money as well to upkeep headstones and plots.”

The cemetery offices are open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. with the cemeteries opening around 6:30 a.m.

Pettaway said people desiring to buy burial plots can purchase them through the office.

“If a family owns property they can tell us where they desire to buy,” Pettaway said. “If a family has no property they can buy some.”

Cemetery Department clerk, Elnora Allen said plots can be bought individually or five to 10 at a time for families, which are currently sold out.

“Single plots are $300 a space,” Allen said. “For five spaces, they are $1,500.”