The New King Hill Cemetery sits back in the woods on a sprawling acreage with more than 700 grave sites.
But when Jerri Stroud visited her father’s grave last week, she wasn’t pleased. Grass covered the white stones that sit behind the gravestone and the tiny American flags that flanked his name were in tatters. It appeared the site had been mowed over.
“When I came down ... his flags had been mowed over, it was awful,” Stroud said. “The disrespect that had been shown was awful.”
Stroud’s father, Richard McDermott, served in Vietnam as part of the U.S. Army. According to Stroud, he was extremely patriotic, which made the destruction of the flags even worse.
“We keep the flags on him because of his patriotism,” Stroud said. “That’s the way he would’ve wanted it.”
But who’s to blame? Maybe no one. New King Hill Cemetery is almost out of money to even pay for any landscaping at all.
“It’s all donation-based,” said Pat Shepard, the cemetery’s secretary and treasurer. “We used to have people that would give us a lot of funds to help take care of it.”
Shepard said the cemetery’s checking account only has $700 remaining, and that just a mowing and weeding service costs $500. She added the cemetery’s savings account has around $3,000 remaining.
“We can’t go any farther unless we get some money from someplace,” Shepard said.
She said she’s collected donations on Memorial Day in the past but stopped after she only received about $2 on her last attempt.
“If there’s anything unsatisfactory to you, bring a little broom over and sweep it off,” Shepard said. “We can’t do everything for you.”
Graves at New King Hill Cemetery cost $250, and Shepard said anyone can be buried there.
Two volunteers open and close the cemetery’s gate, and Shepard’s son grades the roads, Shepard said.
Stroud said she’s going to try and move her father’s grave to a different cemetery, but she may face financial and legal obstacles. Right now, she said her husband takes care of the site.
“I was in shock at first and really upset,” she said. “To come down here and see his flags shredded, it was just hard.”