Coast cemeteries still in disarray

Published 6:38 pm Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Signs of Hurricane Katrina’s wrath can still be seen at some Gulf Coast cemeteries 18 months after the massive storm roared inland.

While cemeteries far north of the coastline were mostly spared, those like the Biloxi City Cemetery still struggle with damaged granite mausoleums and marble tombstones.

“I couldn’t believe all this stuff was knocked down like it was… I know water’s powerful, but I never dreamed it could do anything like this you have here,” caretaker Mike McDonnell said, adding that some tombstones were recovered hundreds of yards away.

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It is a familiar scene at some cemeteries, including at one of the Coast’s oldest — Live Oak in Pass Christian.

“We’ve got problems here,” said Charles Seymour, landscaping contractor for Live Oak. “It’s just lack of money.”

Restoring these cemeteries has been difficult, with some owners embroiled in FEMA or insurance issues, while others that are church-owned or private lacking sufficient funds to restore them. Also moving a tombstone or memorial bench to its original spot is risky for caretakers, who face high costs if something were to break while it is being moved.