Greenleaf Cemetery anticipates new office building

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
Greenleaf Cemetery, was established in 1858. The cemetery consists of more than 100 acres and contains more than 18,000 graves.

The Greenleaf Cemetery Association’s small office building is a “horrendous” structure with issues including termites and plumbing that shuts down when it rains. 

That’s how Steve Harris, president of the association’s board of directors, described the structure, saying “it’s not worth standing any more.”

Although the timeline isn’t certain, the building — located near the cemetery’s main entrance off U.S. Highway 377 —  may be coming down.

That's because the cemetery is on track for a new office building that will be located near the cemetery’s entrance off Center Avenue, which will become the main entrance. 

Based on a recommendation by the Brownwood City Council in a recent budget workshop, the plan is to use a small house that's currently owned by the City of Brownwood, located on Sharp Street near the Brownwood Coliseum, as the new office building. The house will be moved to Greenleaf Cemetery. 

The city bought the house with the idea of converting it to parking space for the coliseum and the future Event Center. In the budget workshop, the has recommended donating the house to Greenleaf for use as an office building and rest room. The council will adopt the budget next month.

The city’s proposed budget contains $15,800 tor the cost of moving the house to the cemetery, creating a driveway and parking lot, utility hookups and a pad.

Adding in the $65,000 cost of buying the house, the value of the donation to the cemetery totals $80,800.

At the location near the Center Street entrance, the building will be on city services — no more septic tank to flood in the rain and causing the rest room in the existing office building to be out of order, Harris said.

As for the existing structure’s future: the hope is to tear it down and replace it with a greenhouse, where plants can be grown for landscaping at the cemetery, Harris said.

“This has been a goal of ours since 2017, because this building here is horrendous,” Harris said. 

'Building that bridge'

Harris earlier asked city officials to remember Greenleaf Cemetery as the restoration of the downtown continues.

“We’re trying to bridge what’s going on downtown with what’s going on at the cemetery,” Harris said. “The people who really made downtown what it was are laid to rest here, so we’re trying to build that bridge.”

Harris’ message: while the city is “doing all the renovations and wonderful things downtown,” remember that many of those made the businesses, built the buildings laid the sidewalks are laid to rest at Greenleaf. 

“We’re building that bridge,” Harris said. “We’re trying to increase visitors and increase attention on the cemetery.”

Harris said the condition of the current office building “has been embarrassing for years. Way before I joined the board, board members were talking about the condition of the office.”

Harris added, “Greenleaf visitors, staff and Greenleaf Cemetery Association volunteers no doubt deserve a facility with functioning bathrooms, solid floors and walls and weathertight windows and doors.”

'A true and dedicated friend'

In the midst of describing both bright spots and challenges for the Greenleaf Cemetery Association, Harris had some sad news: Jeanette Buris, a longtime volunteer and member of the association board of directors, died Monday at age 58.

The Greenleaf Cemetery website described Buris as “a true and dedicated friend to Greenleaf.”

Harris said. “Her passing is a tremendous loss for our GCA Family. Her absence will be a big hit for us in too many ways to count.”

Buris’ death leaves two vacancies on the board.

John Deere work cart

Harris noted other donations from the City of Brownwood, including a new John Dere work cart the city bought for the cemetery association.

The cemetery’s small staff has used the cart for “anything and everything,” ground supervisor Shane Agan said. “It’s got a dump bed, so we can put stuff in it.”

Employee Jeffrey Watson said, “the best thing is, it’s gas instead of electric. Most people wouldn’t think that makes a difference, but whenever you’re running around on a hundred acres, that electric just doesn’t hold up much.” 

Harris said having a new vehicle that’s under warranty “means a lot to us. So that was a big, big step in the right direction. We’re very thankful.

“Equipment is one of the most important things. If you’re going to have a ground crew that does a great job — which they do — this is pivotal for them to have equipment like this. The cemetery was in no position to be able to afford to do this. We’re limited on staff and funds so when you have a piece of equipment like this, it makes their life a lot easier.”

Other donations from the city include a water pump, water tank, irrigation reels and a surplus pickup.

“The city has been very helpful,” Harris said.

Restitution check

Harris displayed a $610 check from the state comptroller’s office, payable to the Greenleaf Cemetery Association.

The check represents the first round of restitution from the association’s former office manager, Tisha Pruett. Pruett was convicted in 2018 of the theft of about $23,000 in association funds and ordered by then-District Judge Steve Ellis to repay the money.

In January 2020, Harris said the cemetery association had not seen any restitution from Pruett, and Harris had little hope that she would repay the money.

“This is a direct restitution from her work,” Harris said of the $610 check. “So this is restitution from her that’s coming in.”

Donations needed

The cemetery association continues to be in need of donations, which have been down because of COVID.

The following information is on the Greenleaf Cemetery website greenleafcemetery.org:

If you would like to help Greenleaf Cemetery with a financial donation, please do so in one of the following ways:

Make checks payable to Greenleaf Cemetery.

Mail your check to

Greenleaf Cemetery    P.O.Box 455    Brownwood, Texas   76804-0455

Donations by credit card can be made by calling our office at (325) 646 6919.