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Restored confederate cemetery preserves history

Reported by: Tyler Hill
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Updated: 7/23 10:23 pm
OKOLONA, Miss. (WTVA) -- The city of Okolona is celebrating the completion of a project three years in the making.

The Okolona Confederate Cemetery has undergone restoration since 2011, and workers are finishing the final touches for a rededication ceremony this weekend.

Walter Chandler and the cemetery go way back. "It's a beautiful cemetery, even though it is a cemetery," he said.

Chandler has worked across from it for nearly two decades. "I'm so used to it," Chandler said. "I've been down here for 19 years."

He's seen it at its worst when the tombstones began turning black, and now, he's seen it at its best.

Three years ago, restoration began on the graveyard in hopes of preserving 150 years of history.

"I think it's just wonderful that after all these years people have the interest that they have in this," Chandler said.

The Okolona Confederate Cemetery Committee spent countless hours restoring the site. "The love that people wanted to put back in this cemetery is just amazing," said volunteer Sherry Ray. "It's a labor of love."

They scrubbed 700 tombstones clean, added 12 flags to represent the states the soldiers came from, built new sidewalks and finished a gate.

From beginning to end, it was a labor of love to keep history alive for future generations.

"We hope we can educate kids and get them to have a love in their heart to care for places like this that are historic," Ray said.

She said preservation's not only for education, but it's to respect the solders who lost their lives.

"We don't know where these young men came from, but they were somebody's son," she explained. "They were somebody's brother. They were somebody's daddy and somebody's husband."

Her one hope is that other communities follow Okolona's example and reconnect with their history.

"I urge every town to restore these cemeteries and get the history back out," she said. "These resting souls deserve this respect and honor."

The committee will hold a rededication ceremony on Saturday, July 26, at 8 p.m.

It's open to the public.
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