- Associated Press - Saturday, October 29, 2016

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - Southern cemeteries with craggly live oaks dripping with Spanish moss are mysterious places with stories to tell.

“See ya later,” the marker of a teen buried at a D’Iberville cemetery declares.

“She hath done what she could!” reads an epitaph in the Old Biloxi Cemetery for a woman who bequeathed her money to support preachers, their widows and orphans.

“Tis sad to part with those we love, to lay them in the grave, and say farewell to a dazzling child, we would have died to save,” is no doubt a parent’s message on the gravestone of a child who died at age 5 and 11 months.

Indeed, there are sad stories - a single date on the marker for a child who was born and died the same day, or the identical date on the side-by-side graves of an infant and woman who died in childbirth.

But then there are mementos like a can of Budweiser on a grave, or a sign at the grave of an Ocean Springs Greyhounds fan, that are reminders the person buried there is loved.

An internet search for the list of cemeteries in the three Coast counties returns more than 100 locations, and still more family plots probably don’t make the list.

Each cemetery has its own spirit and personality - and some are legendary.

The Garden of Hope Cemetery on a back road in Gautier is private and locked, but it’s on several lists of scariest cemeteries in the state and country. Legend has it that a man who killed his wife and five children with an ax are buried together there. One of the daughters has been seen wandering the cemetery in a blue dress.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Graveyard, as it’s called, is down a country road dappled with sun rays through the trees, not far from downtown Ocean Springs. Amid the pretty setting, people claim to be spooked by a woman in white sitting in a rocking chair.

“It ain’t the dead ones you’ve got to worry about,” said Tony Murphy, evoking an often-used quote.

He’s worked in cemeteries for 25 years at Murphy’s Monuments in St. Martin. Recently at Evergreen Cemetery in Ocean Springs, he and his crew were restoring the O’Keefe family plot, where former Biloxi Mayor Jerry O’Keefe was buried recently.

The cemetery meanders among the trees and has views of the bayou.

“It’s a fine piece of property,” Murphy said.

He sandblasts names, dates and epitaphs into the granite, and recently inscribed one for a woman about an elevator ride to the top.

The epitaph costs $5 a letter, he said, so a simple “Beloved wife” runs a little over $50 while a “Hold my drink, you’re gonna’ love this,” is more expensive - and more of a statement.

He’s done too many stones for young children, he said, but not many little lambs. Those that sit atop tiny gravestones are made out of marble, which he said is three times as expensive as the granite.

The new style is to embed a photograph of the deceased in the granite or engrave the stone with deer, footballs or bulldozers.

Fall is the time for cemetery tours in south Mississippi to recall those made a difference in the community. It’s also a good time to wander through the cemeteries and see others who left an impression.

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Information from: The Sun Herald, https://www.sunherald.com

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