published Saturday, May 7th, 2011

Rival associations at odds over Monteagle graveyard care

MONTEAGLE, Tenn. — Two cemetery associations are squabbling over maintenance, upkeep and $150,000 sitting in the bank for perpetual care of the 3,000-plus graves in Monteagle Cemetery.

“This whole situation started last Mother’s Day,” said Kay Ramsey, president of the older Monteagle Cemetery Association Inc. and a member for 21 years.

“I did not have the cemetery mowed on Mother’s Day,” Ramsey said. “It didn’t sit well with some people.”

Ramsey said some people who formed a new association in December and have tried to raise money in the cemetery’s name would like to see more done with maintenance.

Debbie Shrum, president of the new Monteagle Cemetery Association, declined comment.

“I don’t really want to talk about this at this point,” Shrum said last week.

Today, visitors walk shallow paths scooped out by decades of passing feet between headstones dating back as far as the 1800s and others just erected over fresh graves. The cemetery’s older side has ancient trees with branches spreading out over ornate and weather-worn tombstones and small stone markers.

Ramsey said she was recovering from two surgeries and chemotherapy as Mother’s Day 2010 approached, and her daughter had just informed her she was moving to China for a year.

“Things just overwhelmed me, and I just did not remember it was Mother’s Day until my daughter called me the night of Mother’s Day and said, ‘Happy Mother’s Day,’” she said.

Ramsey said she believes a political element exists in the dispute but the main focus is the $150,000 held in savings for perpetual care. She said she understands the other group would like to spend the money on improvements such as fencing and work on some of the cemetery roads.

So far, none of the money has been used for upkeep, she said.

“I think that’s part of the problem, too,” she said. “People want to know why isn’t it fenced, why haven’t we done that, why haven’t we done this.”

But Ramsey says the $150,000 in savings is not enough to pay for care once the remaining 1,000 or so grave sites are sold.

Michelle Russell, a member of the older association’s board of directors, said the aim now is to get everyone on the same side again for the sake of the cemetery.

“We’re going to clean it up by Memorial Day and try to heal the wounds between the groups,” Russell said.

“Memorial Day is always a big day in the community, and the community should not be divided like this,” she said. “We should put this to bed.”

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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stargazer12 said...

With all that is happening in this world, and even in this area (tornados, loss of life, homes, etc.), you'd think that something this petty would not even make the news. Debbie Shrum is a wonderful, caring person who just wants the Monteagle Cemetery to be taken care of. She tried to work with Kay Ramsey, but Ms. Ramsey was unwilling, no matter what was offered to her. You'd think that with surgery, chemo and her daughter moving to China that Ms. Ramsey would have welcomed the help instead of pushing people away. Please leave petty issues like this out of the Times Free Press and keep us informed of the REAL news, or at least get all of the facts straight. Thank you.

May 7, 2011 at 9:55 p.m.
GlacierClipper said...

Being a former citizen and resident of Monteagle, I agree with Debbie. Over the years the maintance of the Monteagle Cemetery has been neglected, it is an awesome event knowing that the younger generation has a caring attitude towards the upkeep of the Cemetery. The people of Monteagle should be stand with these people that are trying to make the Cemetery a better place as the resting place for the towns people. I myself have many relatives in buried in the Monteagle Cemetery. As a reader of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, I give thanks to the staff for getting this article published.

The cleanup of the Cemetery should be a year round event. Why just for Memorial Day, make the place sparkle and shine all year round.

May 8, 2011 at 12:13 a.m.
bjadams said...

First of all it is a disgrace you would even print this story without getting out and talking to people in the community about what pitiful shape the cemetery had gotten in managed by Ms. Ramsey. The old trees you referred to were trimmed and the cemetery cleaned by the "new association". Ask Ms. Ramsey in all her years what improvements have been done. People with loved ones have, on their own, had to take dirt and grass seed and fill in the graves of their loved ones. Not to mention taking mowers and weed eaters to clean up. It was a total mess until Mrs. Shrum got involved. There has been more done to improve the cemetery since then than in the past 15 years. I advise you to come back to Monteagle, don't talk to the old Association but instead talk to those of us with loved ones buried at the cemetery that have been disgusted and disheartened of the shape it was in before Mrs. Shrum came to our rescue.

May 9, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.
gardenfein said...

Usually I do not respond to this type story, but I feel this needs input. What more could be done on a Memorial Day cleanup which is being called by this group? Looks to me that all the work has been done. The "other" group as referred to in your article posted dates/times of two previous clean-up days and it is my understanding that none of "the old guard" responded or took the time to come out and lend a hand. Limbs have been trimmed, stones cleaned, garbage picked up, rose bushes planted and the road has been repaired. And the ragged, tattered flag is in place thanks to calls by concerned citizens (thanks to the local VFW). Aren't all of these people members of the Association? To my understanding this is not a new "Association" but one that has been brought back. It only takes a moment to make a phone call to have the cemetery mowed, but many hours have been put into the cleanup. Personally, I was ashamed on many different times to see our cemetery looking the way it was. Sometimes someone just has to speak up for what they believe is right, and kudos to this group of fine people for stepping up to the plate to see that things were being taken care of.

May 9, 2011 at 4:14 p.m.
bft said...

On Mother’s Day this year, the cemetery was in terrible shape and the grass hadn’t been cut in several weeks. At that time, we requested a meeting to discuss how to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The meeting was held on July 8th at which time we were informed that there wasn’t any money available to have the grass cut again until more funds were raised. We were told that perpetual funds could not be used for this, which does not seem in keeping with the purpose of the fund. My mother and numerous others in Monteagle, (many now buried here) helped establish this perpetual fund for the upkeep of the property.

During this same meeting a committee was formed to help with fund raising and volunteer help for taking care of the property. The committee members are Debbie Shrum, Deloris Knott and Brenda Cook. Since then these three individuals have devoted much time and effort and have the cemetery looking better than it has in years. They have managed to raise enough money to contract someone to gravel the roads within the cemetery. During this time the Board of Directors offered minimal help to the committee and did not support their efforts.

Although the Board is to be commended for their past contributions we need to ensure that the operations of the Cemetery Association are carried out in a transparent fashion, including open meetings and elections with notices posted in the local paper. Supporters’ requests for information should be answered in a timely manner and the decisions of the Board should be available to interested parties. I hope that the citizens of Monteagle will will become involved and help the Board, the committee and the family members to work together to preserve this fine cemetery that we all hold dear.

Billy French Thomas 135 Laural Hill Drive Smyrna, TN 37167 615-223-0870

May 10, 2011 at 10:04 a.m.
dcleek said...

Let me say at the onset that yes, I am a member of the "new" group and "yes" my wife serves as vice-president of said group. I feel that to sit silent about certain assumptions/allegations made by folks in your recent article would be an injustice to the community. The facts: (1) Mrs. Ramsey along with two members of the former Board of Directors came to our home when the "new" group was formed asking what we thought the problem was. Our answer simple and honest, lack of communication and that the majority of the community was upset over the upkeep or lack thereof of the cemetery. It was our hope that the two groups could work together but alas! for reasons known only to Mrs. Ramsey that was not to be. (2) At the same meeting we were led to believe that the money Mrs. Ramsey speaks of in your article was in a trust fund to be held in perpetuity for the upkeep of the cemetery. Now I read that Mrs. Ramsey states the money is in a savings account, not a trust fund. Which is it? (3) As to the belief that the second group was organized due to "political" conflicts..An article in our local newspaper indicates that one of the members serving with Mrs. Ramsey's "old" group ran for political office against Mrs. Debbie Shrum's brother and lost the election.(I do not live in the city, nor do I own property in the city and therefore cannot vote. The City of Monteagle Mayor nor Aldermen (past, present or future) are in no way involved in this matter, nor should they be). If Ms. Michelle Russell has a problem with Mr. Rollins let them work that out between themselves. What does this have to do with the Cemetery? (4) Lastly,several years ago we purchased lots close to other family members as did my wife's cousin. After some time had passed we found out that not only had our lots been resold to someone else but those of our cousin as well (someone was actually already buried in her plot!) We were offered our choice of “replacement” lots...but not near where our original lots were located. While Mrs. Ramsey did not sell us the original plots - at the time they were resold she was the Manager and in possession of the cemetery map. How could such a thing happen?

I believe Mrs. Ramsey's health/personal problems are all the more reason to turn over the reins and let someone else give it a try. A change is needed and the dedicated "newer" group is ready to do the work. They are not about the money, the work which they have done at the cemetery has been voluntary with the exception of the upgraded road which was paid for by donations from folks who want a change. My wife nor I can take any credit for the upgrades as we have been unable to help out on both work days, but credit should be given where credit is due. I, too, would like to see this matter resolved – if Mrs. Ramsey is of the same mind why won’t she meet with the “new” group and try to settle this matter. Respectfully, Rob Cleek, Monteagle

May 10, 2011 at 10:53 a.m.
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