Members of the Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society and The Cemetery restoration Project held a cleanup Saturday morning at the Catholic Cemetery on the corner of Iris and Common Street. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Saturday, November 02, 2013 8:43 PM
Members of the Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society and the Catholic Cemetery Restoration Project held a cleanup Saturday morning at Catholic Cemetery, on the corner of Iris and Common streets.
Before the actual event, the group members gathered around a table in the middle of the cemetery and ate a light breakfast and chatted about the history buried beneath them. Some of the graves underneath the overgrown weeds and plants date back as far as the late 1800s.
During the breakfast, Adley Cormier, a local preservationist, talked to the group about how unique the site is. He discussed the different burial traditions that were visible among the tombstones from French to Spanish traditions to the above-ground, vault and underground burial methods. Catholic Cemetery is home to at least 250 families.
“Cemeteries are very quirky in Southwest Louisiana,” Cormier told the group. “If you’re a cemetery lover, we have a number of interesting ones here.”
The cemetery has seen its fair share of hardships. From some of the vaults falling apart over time to people coming and removing items from the graves, the cemetery is far removed from the beauty it knew long ago. Nancy Moss is the president of the preservation society. As the group began cleaning — some grabbing sheers to clip away vines, others putting on gloves to pull weeds — Moss talked about how the cemetery deserves to have its beauty restored. She said with so much history inside of the gates, it’s a priority to keep the lot pristine.
“There are a lot of founding fathers buried here,” Moss said. Cormier chimed in from a distance that there were founding mothers buried there as well.
“And founding mothers,” Moss said. “We really just want to make this place pretty again. That’s our goal.”
Moss said she was thinking about making the cleanup an annual event for the group — maybe even down the road, getting more of the local community involved in restoring some of the area’s older cemeteries.
Shirley Maurer attended the event with her husband, Steve. She said that when it comes to learning about the history of a region, residents of Southwest Louisiana have an advantage.
“People have to realize how important it is to get children to come out and learn about their area’s history,” Maurer said. “Small towns and the families in them have the advantage of having multi-generational access to their kids. It’d be great to get them out to teach them about the area’s past.”