A late-afternoon rain shower soaked Greenleaf Cemetery Wednesday, prompting people to huddle tighter under the roof of an open-sided tent.
No one seemed to mind the cool, refreshing rain. But rain, some of the folks noted, was related to their concerns about tall grass and weeds they say has marred the cemetery’s appearance and blocked access to many graves and headstones.
About two dozen people — most of them with family members buried in the historic 95-acre perpetual care cemetery, located off U.S. Highway 377 South — attended a meeting of the Greenleaf Cemetery Board of Directors to express their concerns.
Speaking with emotion, voices sometimes rising to shouts, people expressed frustration and sometimes anger at the condition of the cemetery that embraces their children, their parents, their grandparents and other relatives.
Ronnie Lappe, president of the Greenleaf Cemetery Association, said heavy June rains made the grounds so wet that the grass could not be cut. Lappe also said the cemetery needs to have more than the three groundskeepers it employs to cut the grass — but it doesn’t have the money to hire more people, Lappe said.
Lappe said the cemetery needs to have about 10 groundskeepers to properly maintain the cemetery.
People told Lappe they understand the problem, but asked him repeatedly how the board planned to solve it. The consensus: the people themselves, not the board, will find the answer.
The meeting concluded without any immediate answers, but many followed former cemetery board member Ernest Cadenhead’s suggestion to exchange names and contact information and start coming up with ideas.
People already had some ideas before the meeting ended, including getting on the Brownwood City Council’s agenda and asking the council to increase its support to the cemetery. The city currently budgets $5,000 a year for the cemetery, Lappe said.
They also discussed the idea of calling work days for themselves to come out and work on the grounds. Many said they would be willing to participate.
Lappe said the Greenleaf Cemetery Association has $650,000 in certificates of deposit, but isn’t allowed to use those funds for maintenance and upkeep. The association can, however, use the interest from the certificates, as well as the sale of graves, for maintenance and upkeep, Lappe said.
But the association simply needs more income, he said.
“It sounds like everybody has the same ideal here - to honor their dead,” one man said.
Restaurateur Steve Harris, noting that the community earlier raised money to buy a van for veterans, said the community can come together to help the cemetery.
“This has to be a priority. None of us are proud of the way it looks,” Harris said.
More than one person referred to the cemetery’s condition as “embarrassing.”
As the meeting concluded, Barbara Rodgers of Blanket, who has family members buried in Greenleaf, said she had just exchanged information with several other people. “We were looking for solutions,” Rodgers said.
“We haven’t solved the problem yet. We got a communication network going.”