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Memory Lawn cemetery cannot be forgotten

May 27, 2017 • Editorial

On Monday, dignitaries will gather at the General Douglas L. McBride Veterans Cemetery in Roswell for a solemn Memorial Day service for veterans. Wreaths will be placed, taps will be played and Maj. Randall Bates of the New Mexico Army National Guard will give the keynote speech.
No doubt it will be a moving and somber ceremony in a community known for its military ties and honoring its veterans.
Meanwhile, there are no known plans for a ceremony at Memory Lawn Memorial Park, where many other veterans are buried.
A monument at the entrance of the ownerless Memory Lawn Memorial Park says it all: “In dedication with great appreciation to all the veterans of the United States Armed Services who unselfishly served this great country.”
If ever there were a time to recognize Memory Lawn, it’s Memorial Day weekend.
Private citizens with loved ones buried at the cemetery and cadets from New Mexico Youth ChalleNGe Academy are all that the cemetery has right now. The cemetery has been in a court-ordered receivership since 2011, following a lawsuit against the cemetery’s prior owners.
In recent months, squads of cadets have provided basic maintenance and cleanup at the cemetery at 2605 E. 19th St. In March, cadets replaced the cemetery’s worn American flag.
However, there is nothing in place to ensure the cemetery is watered, mowed or maintained. Memory Lawn stands a forgotten cemetery this holiday weekend. Despite so many agreeing it’s a shame, no one outside of the volunteers seems willing to do anything about it.
At an April meeting, the Roswell City Council voted 6-4 against a proposal to take ownership of the cemetery east of the city limits. City councilors Jeanine Corn Best, Caleb Grant, Jason Perry and Art Sandoval voted to acquire the burial portion of the cemetery. City councilors Tabitha Denny, Barry Foster, Steve Henderson, Natasha Mackey, Juan Oropesa and Savino Sanchez Jr. voted against the cemetery’s acquisition for various reasons.
Chaves County leaders declined to assume maintenance of the 41-acre cemetery, and instead asked the city to take it over. Robert Corn, chairman of the County Commission and a former magistrate court judge, was appointed receiver of the cemetery by a district judge in 2011.
At the April City Council meeting, Darrel Bethany of Anderson-Bethany Funeral Home & Crematory said the families of those interred at Memory Lawn deserve respect. Mr. Bethany read the City Council and mayor a letter from 93-year-old Etta Ham, who said she plans to be buried next to her husband, Lawrence, at Memory Lawn cemetery. Mrs. Ham said her family bought 16 lots at Memory Lawn in the 1960s.
“Now, I have seven members of my family out there,” Mr. Bethany read from Mrs. Ham’s letter. “I am 93 years old and in very bad health. So, I know my days are numbered, and before long, I’ll be out there beside my husband. So, Mr. Mayor and council members, please, I’m asking you to please take care of the problem with the cemetery. I feel the people buried out there should have the same level of care as the ones out at South Park.”
Enough of the naysaying. It’s time for our elected leaders to step up. Yes, the cemetery is a money pit, but Mrs. Ham and all of Roswell deserve some peace of mind.

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