Local News

Retired Nurses on Grave-Saving Mission

Posted May 24, 2007
Updated May 25, 2007

— Retired nurses Evelyn Shepard and Yvonne Stanley have plenty of experience taking care of people. Now, they are taking care of something different – neglected graves.

As Memorial Day approaches, the women are on a mission to restore the glory to veterans.

“These people deserve better than what they have received in the past, and it's a disgrace,” Stanley said.

Sometimes crawling on their hands and knees, these two volunteers clear heavy brush, trees and other debris to make hundreds of graves more presentable.

“They were people, they have a history,” Shepard said.

The women treat each one like a friend.

“Johnson Brown … Hey Johnson, we got you baby,” Shepard said.

Some graves have broken headstones, orange flags mark those with no stone at all. Many veterans are buried here from World War One, World War Two, and the Korean War.

“It broke my heart to see the veterans out here,” Stanley said.

One of those veterans is Shepard's brother who died in Korea at age 19.

Members of the Air Force just placed a flag next to his stone.

“And that's the first flag we've been able to put beside him to honor him for what he did,” Shepard said. “And I thank him.”

Nearly every day they uncover a new grave.

“I haven't found my father, I haven't found my grandmother,” Shepard said. “But I know I will find them.”

This weekend, volunteers will place American flags on all uncovered veterans graves. Dozens of volunteers have helped the women and have donated supplies along the way. They're now trying to get family members to come forward to identify all the graves in the cemetery.

“It’s going to take several more months, but we're not going to give up and we're going to continue cleaning until it’s finished,” Stanley said.


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  • 1Moms_View May 26, 2007

    For those who would like to help, this is a rewarding project. Check your local area also. In most communities, there are forgotten graves that need tending or they will be lost forever. In one NC town, I was sickened to recently discover that a cemetery with Civil War widows has been allowed to become a crumbled mass of weeds and forest. I used to do what I could to protect those stones in honor of those women and the service their husbands provided to our country when I lived in the area growing up. It sickens me that the local gov't allowed a school to turn the home for those widows into a parking lot or soccer field. Now they've allowed the cemetery to be overgrown and students to damage graves when they should be in class. Absolutely disgraceful.
    Kudos to these nurses and others who cherish our history and respect the memory of these people to take on these projects. I would love to help you as I have ancestors buried in Wayne Co. Please let me know how to contact these women.

  • peace_of_mind May 25, 2007

    As asked earlier, what cemetary?

  • z24chick May 25, 2007

    It's wonderful that there are still some decent people in this world. Good job ladies. Thanks for all that you are doing.

  • Go Figure May 25, 2007

    i am a nurse, and i would like to help....how can i get in touch with these ladies?

  • hobbylar1 May 25, 2007

    I admire these women in their effort but on my electronic map I find a Wayne County and a Waynesville. Still wondering where they are working.

  • keycall May 24, 2007

    What Cemetery ? Where is it located ?

  • Myword May 24, 2007

    Knifty, you would be surprised where you find problems--the grave I cleared from an ant mound is one of the nicest around...but you aren't going to be welcome if you gripe at them or out them a lot in stories..it is best to realize that human nature is that when people think some graves have been forgotten, they just get less care. So show the cemeteries graves are not forgotten and it will be a win-win for the cemeteries and the people who have an interest in this kind of thing and of course for the memory of everyone whose stone you clear!

  • just my2cents May 24, 2007

    What a great idea! I am keeping my kids out of school Monday, yes, that's right, Wilson Co schools are in session. This will be a good project for us to do Monday.
    Thank you for helping our deceased soldiers' memories live on. Thank God for those brave folks who defended freedom.

  • ladybug467 May 24, 2007

    Thank you very much to all who have worked on this project and ones like it.

  • KniftyKnitter May 24, 2007

    Am I missing it?? What cemetery is this?

    I think it's a wonderful thing these women are doing. Bless you!