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Brooksville to handle upkeep of 1800s cemetery

BROOKSVILLE — For years, the tiny Olive Street Cemetery has been an obscure part of Brooksville's history. Tucked behind the former St. Anthony's Catholic Church, which is now a private residence, it is the final resting place for 15 people, buried beneath weathered grave markers.

The names on the gravestones date to the city's earliest days: Law, Howell, Mickler, Duren. Jack Lovelace has gotten to know them well.

He and his wife, Jeanne, have lived for five years in the former church built in 1908, which still has its original stained-glass windows. Until now, upkeep on the 2,508-square-foot plot has been his responsibility.

When he's feeling well enough, Lovelace, 66, takes out his mower and pushes it over the thick grass. Sometimes he pressure-washes the gravestones to make sure the names are visible.

A disabled Vietnam veteran, Lovelace said he's proud of the graveyard in his back yard and wishes he could do more.

"I've enjoyed taking care of it," he said Tuesday as he patted the sweat from his forehead. "But it's difficult sometimes because of my health. I have good days and bad days. On the bad days, I just can't get out there."

All of that may soon change, said parks and recreation director Mike Walker.

On Monday, the Brooksville City Council voted to accept an offer from the Diocese of St. Petersburg to give over its interest in the graveyard.

From now on, Walker said, city crews will oversee all aspects of maintenance, including mowing and trimming around grave sites.

The city also reached an agreement with the First Baptist Church of Brooksville for an easement to allow public access to the land-locked parcel, thus eliminating Lovelace's property as the only way onto the cemetery.

Obtaining the property took several years, mainly because no one seemed to know who owned it. In November, city attorneys were able to clear the last legal hurdles to obtain the parcel from the diocese.

Though he's happy the cemetery is in the city's hands, Lovelace isn't so thrilled knowing that inmate labor will be used to maintain the grave sites.

"Who wants criminals in their back yard?" he asked.

Walker said he hasn't spoken to Lovelace about his concerns, but plans to do so this week.

Meanwhile, Lovelace says he doesn't mind taking care of the cemetery. Nor does he mind the visitors who stop by to look at the cemetery in his back yard.

"You get used to it," he said. "People are interested in (the graves). It's history."

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1435.

Brooksville to handle upkeep of 1800s cemetery 05/18/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 18, 2010 8:56pm]
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