In the spirit of Conan the Barbarian – it may take a supreme warrior and fighter to bring Greenleaf Cemetery from it’s financial woes, but some board members are ready to take bold action to see that the financially strapped cemetery remains a part of Brown County’s rich history.
So, in an effort to do that, new board member Steve Harris, supported by others on the board, has reached out to none other than former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the star of “Conan the Barbarian,” written by Robert E. Howard, for some philanthropic assistance. Howard was buried in Greenleaf Cemetery in 1936 after committing suicide.
In interviews, Schwarzenegger has said that Robert E. Howard was very important to his career. “Conan the Barbarian” was his breakout film released in 1982, followed by “Conan the Destroyer,” released in 1984.
In fact, in an article from Variety in May, the superstar said he has never forgotten what “Conan the Barbarian” did for his career describing the movie as “God’s gift to [my] career.”
Robert E. Howard created “Conan the Barbarian” in a series of short stories and novels in the 1930s. Born in Peaster, Texas, he was raised in Cross Plains. His fiction was carried in pulp magazines of the time such as Weird Tales. He committed suicide after holding vigil by his mother’s deathbed in 1936.
Howard, is buried in Greenleaf Cemetery and there is a historical marker near his grave.
Harris said reaching out to Schwarzenegger is a no brainer.
“The whole point of reaching out to someone of his stature is that he went on record to say that Conan the Barbarian made his career,” Harris said. “I know how philanthropic and passionate he is on issues that are important to him. But it is up to us to reach out to show him the significance of this cemetery.”
Greenleaf Cemetery is in dire financial straights and burials are down. The perpetual care fund needs building because the costs of upkeep are increasing and never ending. It is up to the board of the cemetery to think out of the box and come up with ways to raise funds so the cemetery remains viable for the community and honors the more than 22,000 souls who are buried there.
Harris said he mentioned the idea two weeks ago in a social media post and it has since mushroomed, with Harris officially reaching out last week to the Harry Walker Agency, an organization that schedule’s Schwarzenegger for speaking engagements.
There has been no word from the superstar, yet.
“This is our first attempt to invite him to participate in basically saving Greenleaf Cemetery,” Harris said.
The bottom line is that we need to increase our perpetual care fund from $1 million to $7 million.
Hence, it is time to “act boldly,” just as Conan did.
“We’ve got to reach out for the history and take action,” Harris said. “It is extremely important for us to move and act boldly.”
“To not move boldly is to disrespect everyone who is buried there,” said Harris, whose mother Charlene Spurlock and generations of his family are buried in Greenleaf Cemetery.
In May, Keep Brownwood Beautiful partnered with the cemetery for a fundraiser dubbed $5,000 in Five Days. That ended up as $15,000 in 15 days, and the cemetery received just under $700 from a Father’s Day car show and the sale of pulled pork sandwiches on Robert E. Howard Days.
“We are still needing lots and lots of funds,” said Freda Day, the office manager at the cemetery.
The board is also reaching out to the Texas Historical Commission and the business school at Howard Payne University, who both have a vested interest in saving the cemetery. Greenleaf Cemetery is recognized by the THC with historical plaques throughout the cemetery.
The cemetery is trying to repair past issues that have included mismanagement, theft and lack of oversight. Taxes went unpaid for various periods of time; the cemetery is trying to bring taxes current and is working with the IRS, which has been “very helpful,” Day said.
Greenleaf Cemetery, which was established in 1868, has about 22,000 graves. It is one of the oldest perpetual care cemeteries in Texas, and many of Brown County’s earliest settlers are among those buried there.
On reaching out to the superstar, Harris said it is simple.
“We are not going to be able to bury our way out of a financial hole,” he said. “The trend is not burials, the trend is cremation. That is why we are having to get creative.”
For more information on Greenleaf Cemetery or to make a donation or volunteer go to www.greenleafcemetery.org.