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Larry F. Johnson

Recording Secretary & Co-Treasurer
Jerry Semprevio


Mary Frances Banks


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May 2019
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Jerry Semprevio

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Cemetery News
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September 2010 News

It's with a heavy heart that I have to report the passing of Al Oakes, Jr., a former board member and neighbor of the Historic Sylvester Cemetery. He has been an ardent supporter of our efforts to clean-up and maintain the cemetery property since the Cemetery Foundation was formed in 2002. Al will be sorely missed by his family, friends and neighbors.

July News

Jerry Semprevio submitted his resignation today as Recording Secretary and webmaster of the the Historic Sylvester Cemetery organization. You can contact any of the other three members of the board with cemetery inquiries or requests.

May News

Lots of new projects are underway at Sylvester Cemetery this spring. Now that the epic drought in the Atlanta area seems to be over, we have been getting a lot of heavy rain. There has been no signs of erosion on Fiddlin’ John Carson Lane or J.W. McWilliams Road since their excavation and new topping with stone. Thanks to all of our supporters that donated money and time to this effort…it was really needed!

Everyone who has been to Sylvester Cemetery over the last several years has seen the problem of sinking graves and tilting headstones. That happens over time when there are no concrete vaults used to protect caskets and granite monuments are placed directly on the ground with little or no sub-base. We have been busy this year pouring new concrete sub-bases and re-mortaring headstones to combat the problem. But some of the headstones at Sylvester are just too large and heavy for us to do ourselves.

We recently contracted with Hometown Construction Company of Conyers to “fix” the problem with the large upright monument on the Thomas & Mary Jane Terry plot. Large stones had been used as a sub-base to support the weight of the monument and over time the stones have settled. The Terry monument (which weighed at least 700 lbs) was listing approximately 25 degrees and was in danger of falling. The heavy rains this spring had made the ground very spongy and we were afraid that the monument would fall and crush Thomas Terry’s headstone, which was located just three feet south of the large upright stone. We removed the smaller headstones and footstones for Thomas, Mary Jane, Jasper and Sylvester Terry (Sylvester Cemetery is named in his memory) and are cleaning the granite off-site. Jasper Terry’s headstone had been broken into three pieces and his footstone in two pieces, probably by a tree which fell many years ago. Those stones are being repaired with stone epoxy and they will all be returned to their original places in late May. The Hometown Construction crew lifted the Terry monument off it’s base and removed the stones used as a sub-base. They filled the hole with crushed stone and poured a new concrete sub-base below ground. After the new base was set, the two pieces of the Terry monument were returned to their original place…leveled and re-mortared. New plantings will be done when the headstones are in place and the main Terry family plot should be good for another 150 years or so.

The upright monument for Thomas, Mary Jane, Jasper & Sylvester Terry was leaning at a dangerous angle, threatening to topple at any moment. Workers from Hometown Services removed the stone, laid a new sub-base and replaced it using a bobcat and lots of muscle in April, 2009. The small headstones and footstones are being cleaned and repaired. They will be reinstalled on the graves in late May.

Some of the other headstones that have been recently given new sub-bases are T.E. Jones, two stones on the McKee family plot and Azalia Hudlow. Many more are in need of attention and we will get to them as our time and resources dictate.

On a negative note, we had our first case of deliberate vandalism in over a year in April. Three headstones were pried off their bases and overturned on the north side of Sylvester Cemetery during the week of March 30th. The damage was discovered on April 4th and reported to the Dekalb County Police Department. Of course, no one in the adjoining neighborhood (Brown Place) saw anything or had any idea who did it. We have our suspicions but can’t prove a thing and it’s very upsetting. The headstones were not broken, thankfully, but are too heavy for us to lift back on their bases. When we have the money available, we will have to pay a contractor to fix the damage. It makes me angry that people would do this kind of malicious vandalism. We work very hard to try to keep the cemetery clean and neat for the benefit of all and are rewarded with senseless vandalism by young hoodlums hanging around with nothing better to do with their time. And money is scarce for charitable organizations like the Historic Sylvester Cemetery Foundation so the cost of fixing vandalism is another open sore to deal with. Anyway, the headstones were on the plots of Pearl R. Smith, the main Vickery monument and Jack C. & Hattie Parr.

Vandalism occurred on the north side of Sylvester Cemetery in East Atlanta the week of March 30th. Headstones were pried off their bases and pushed over. Photos, left to right, are: Three large headstones in a straight line from Brown Place to J.W. McWilliams Road in the cemetery; Pearl R. Smith; the main Vickery family monument; and Jack C. & Hattie Parr.

On a more positive note, our annual spring effort to raise donations for the continued operation of Historic Sylvester Cemetery is now underway and we are encouraged by the initial response. Please consider donating to our maintenance efforts when you receive our appeal letter and donation card this month. If you are not on our list but want to help out, please send a tax-deductible check to: Historic Sylvester Cemetery, P.O. Box 17555, Atlanta, GA 30316. And thank you for your support.

Early Spring News

The end of a long, wet winter has been marked by the start-up of several large maintenance and restoration projects at Sylvester Cemetery. Hometown Construction Company of Conyers, GA did extensive grading to the roadbed of J.W. McWilliams Road from the Josephine Avenue gate to the middle of the cemetery. The project was started last fall to stop erosion on the west side of the hill on McWilliams Road. The east end of McWilliams Road was finished last month by the crew from Hometown Construction. A thick layer of #4b rock was put over the entire length of the roadway. I'm happy to report that no erosion has occurred during the last month of heavy Georgia spring downpours. Our thanks go out to Robert, Danny and their talented crew.

Once grading the roadbed of J.W. McWilliams Road was completed, fill dirt and #4b stone was dumped and spread.

The east side of J.W. McWilliams Road was topped off with additional #4b stone to stop erosion in the center of the cemetery and the entire roadway was leveled.

Winter News

Sorry that I have let the ball slide a bit with updating and adding new articles and photos to the Sylvester Cemetery website over the last two months. I’ve been swamped with work at my job and then had surgery and the subsequent recovery period to deal with.

Today I added an article that Dennis Taylor wrote entitled “Short History of Historic Sylvester Cemetery” last summer. It was published in the local newspaper, The Porch Press, and copies have been added to the archives at the Atlanta History Museum and the Dekalb County History Center in Decatur. You can find it on the History Page along with a reprint of an old article on the Murder of Thomas Terry in 1861 written by Wilbur G. Kurtz in 1936. Enjoy it, I found it very entertaining and enlightening.

There is also an article on the Home Page summarizing the exciting new projects that we are working on at Sylvester Cemetery over the winter. These projects (roadway improvements; lifting fallen monuments, repairing damaged walls & filling and leveling sunken graves; and adding new signage at the four cemetery entrances will be very visible to visitors to the cemetery. The summary of work done at each site and before & after photos can be found on the Fallen/Leaning Gravestones Page. Progress is going well although we have taken a couple of weeks off that project during the Christmas and New Year holiday. Check it out here on the website or visit the cemetery to see the work we’ve done in person.

The cemetery board members wish to offer our condolences to the family of Mr. Otho “Jay” Samples who passed away in October. He was buried on October 18th alongside his wife on the family plot on the north side of Sylvester Cemetery.

Burial of Othos "Jay" Samples on his Family Plot on 10/18/08.

In October, we added the new roadway sign at the Clifton Road entrance to the cemetery. There will be a formal dedication of the sign and designation of the newly reworked roadway as Fiddlin’ John Carson Lane at the annual birthday concert/jam for the Country Music Pioneer in March, 2009. We are planning on naming and dedicating other roadways within Sylvester Cemetery as we complete sectional re-grading work during the year. We started with Fiddlin’ John because of the number of visitors to the cemetery who want to access his grave site and the years of financial and emotional support provided to us by his family over the last several years.

Work has been completed for roadway grading and installation of the sign designating Fiddlin John Carson Lane.

Lightning struck a large oak tree adjacent to the Klements Family Plot on the north side of the cemetery in October. We are not sure if the tree will survive, although it seems to be doing okay since the lightning strike, although the continuing drought may kill it in the end. The lightning grounded in a pipe marking the corner of the Klements plot and blew the concrete-topped brick wall apart. Wow…the power of Mother Nature is awesome! Unfortunately we had to pay a brick mason to come in and repair the damaged wall and cap but it looks fine now and no one was injured during the storm..

Left photo of damage caused to the wall around the Klements Family Plot.

Dennis has been spending his time filling sunken graves with dirt all around Sylvester Cemetery. He has also repaired several walls that had collapsed because of sunken graves. This is a priority safety project to insure that visitors do not fall while walking around the cemetery property in areas where the ground has heaved. Where gravestones have fallen due to sunken graves, we have raised the stones and he has filled the sunken graves. Photos can be seen below and also on the Fallen/Leaning Gravestones Page of the website. It really looks nice when he finishes and we will be planting grass or spreading pea gravel on those sites in the spring.

Lastly, I am making my semi-annual request that Adopt-A-Plot Volunteers and family members please budget some time in the next couple of weeks to rake and bag leaves off their plots. The leaves are off most of the trees (oaks are the exception, of course) and the leaves need to be gotten off the plots and away from the headstones. I have had several emails from cemetery neighbors volunteering to help us with leaf removal so it sounds like I will have some new volunteers this year accomplishing that task. Thank you all so much.

We will be in the cemetery on Saturdays over the holidays and into January and I hope to see and chat with everyone who comes to visit their family graves or just wants to walk around to see what is new at Sylvester Cemetery. Have a terrific holiday and remember that even though the financial and political news may not be too good right now, we still have many blessings to thank God for in our lives.

Jerry Semprevio

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