Action Report: Renovations needed at city's second oldest cemetery

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by Action Reporter Bill Capo

wwltv.com

Posted on March 22, 2010 at 6:47 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 22 at 6:51 PM

NEW ORLEANS -- At Diana DeGruy's burial in St. Louis Cemetery Number Two, relatives celebrated her life with a Jazz Funeral, continuing a tradition unique to New Orleans.

"Cemeteries have always been a place in New Orleans not just where the dead rest, but also where the living come to celebrate the culture of the city," said Daniel Hammer, board member of Save Our Cemeteries.

1500 graves and wall vaults fill the three-block cemetery that was founded in 1823. Those buried here range from mayors and governors to slaves, and even pirate Dominique You, Jean Lafitte's lieutenant.

Over the past two years, Save Our Cemeteries has worked with 230 Xavier University students to survey St. Louis Number Two.

"It was shocking for a few of my students," said Xavier Theology Professor Dr. Mark Gstohl. "They were looking at the book that had the information, and they found the book was wrong, and so there was a name that they got to add, and they said wow, there's a family now that will have access, that will know where their relatives are buried."

 

For Jarred Honore, taking part in the survey brought the city's history to life.

"In order to really understand what has happened to your family, look at some of these graves, look at some of the histories, look at some of the markings, look at just the style of art people used," Honore said.

But many of the graves are badly deteriorated, there's been vandalism, names of those buried are long missing, and some tombs are just piles of rubble.

"The World Monument Foundation has placed St, Louis Cemetery Number Two on its 10 most endangered sites list," Hammer said.

Save Our Cemeteries was founded in 1974 to save the wall vaults at St. Louis Number Two. But now they are beginning a major project aimed at restoring all of St. Louis Number Two.

"It is a huge project to save the cemetery," Hammer said. "It begins with the restoration of the individual tombs. That alone is a huge project."

It will be a years-long process, but Save Our Cemeteries is already making plans to raise funds, and get people interested in visiting St. Louis Number Two.

"I would like to see people repairing the tombs, coming to visit them," said Lora Williams of Save Our Cemeteries. "This is an active cemetery, and making it even more active." For more information, call Save Our Cemeteries at 525-3377.

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