- Associated Press - Sunday, December 21, 2014

NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) - Every summer when she was growing up, Page Beasley Brown would come up from Baker, Louisiana, and spend a week with her grandmother in Natchez.

But unlike most children, the summer weeks with grandma included happy memories of spending her day wandering through a cemetery.

Her grandmother, Juanita Beasley, was - along with Brown’s grandfather James Beasley - the owner of Greenlawn Memorial Park.

“I would walk around the park, reading all of the names and verses on the plates, and watch the ducks and the fish at the pond here,” Brown said.

“Sometimes I would ride the equipment and help move dirt.”

Now, Brown is building on those early memories and stepping in to become the third generation of the Beasley family to operate the cemetery.

Greenlawn was first developed as a cemetery in 1958 on the site of what was at that time a rural dairy farm in the Morgantown area.

James and Juanita Beasley purchased the property in 1968 and operated it until 2006. Juanita died in August at the age of 85, and is buried in the cemetery she helped run for 38 years.

“Their reputation in town was excellent for how they were known to run the business with integrity,” Brown said.

After the first generation of Beasleys retired from the business, an association of Brown’s aunt, uncles, several cousins and her father - Byford Beasley - owned it.

Byford was the primary caretaker for the property during the years the second generation ran the memorial gardens.

“It was a lot of work for him,” Brown said.

In the last year, the maintenance of the park had become more difficult for Byford, and Page and her husband Randy - a retired U.S. Marine - came up to Natchez from Denham Springs to help with the operations.

“After a few months, they decided it was time for the next generation to take over,” Randy said.

The Browns officially took over Greenlawn and a sister cemetery in Laurel - Nora Davis Memorial Cemetery - on Nov. 1.

“We really came back and saw this as an opportunity to bring the cemetery back to its previous well-maintained, wellmanicured status,” Page said.

But the Browns want to improve on the reputation already established by previous generations.

Taking over the operations at Greenlawn, the Browns have moved its records from paper to digital, set up a website and started working with a program where they can design custom memorials online.

They still sell flowers in the main office, and in addition to traditional gravesites they have dedicated a portion of the cemetery to halflots for the burial of cremated remains.

“That’s more and more of a trend in our industry, and we felt we needed to provide a service for that,” Randy said.

Because some of the regulations about the burial cremated remains are different from a traditional funeral, Page said Greenlawn is working out arrangements to host graveside services for those who are cremated.

The cemetery is also planning to offer a candlelight memorial service in January to anyone who has a loved one buried there, Page said.

“Both the funeral home and us, we see people at probably the worst experiences of their life,” she said. “Sometimes they’re out here every day, and we wanted to offer something that could help them.

“We are doing this because of our love of people and the love of my grandparents - this was their life - so we want people to see that we are invested in the community.”

A total of 36 acres have been dedicated to the cemetery. Of that, approximately half the acreage has been developed and only onethird of the developed land has been used, Randy said.

“(Greenlawn) will be here for a long time,” he said.

As a perpetual care cemetery, Greenlawn has a trust dedicated to finance its long-term maintenance. The principal care balance in the fund cannot be touched, Randy said, and only the interest generated from it can be used.



Greenlawn Memorial Park, https://www.thegreenlawnmp.com


Information from: The Natchez Democrat, https://www.natchezdemocrat.com/

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