By Edna Ward

Opelika Observer

Oct. 25 is “Make A Difference Day” in America. According to the event’s website, “This October 25th, millions of volunteers across the nation will unite with a common mission – to improve the lives of others … (during) Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of community service.”

For Opelika, Make A Difference Day will include Ross Cemetery for a much needed cleanup. Arthur Jones, Chair of the Lee County Cemetery Preservation Commission, recently discussed ideas for Ross Cemetery with Dr. Henry Lewis Smith. Jones said, “Ross Cemetery needs a lot of work. If we could find those who have a little free time to join us Saturday morning, Oct. 25, between 8 a.m. and noon, we could make a big difference at Ross Cemetery.”

The cemetery covers about four acres of land, which includes large trees, scrub undergrowth along with weeds, downed limbs and debris. The plan is to remove as much of the undergrowth and debris as possible.  Among all of this there are many souls at rest.  There are 20 marked graves. There are about 20 more graves with surface vaults that have no names. Other graves are marked with rocks.

Probably the saddest part is the graves that are only depressions in the earth – the only physical evidence that someone lived and died.   The total number of graves is unknown.

Smith pointed out he agrees with William Ewart Gladstone’s comment. Gladstone, who lived from 1809 to 1898 and was four times Prime Minister of Great Britain, said, “Show me the manner in which a nation or community cares for its dead, and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.”

The Lee County Cemetery Preservation Commission includes the Gladstone quote on its home-made stationery. The Cemetery Commissioners are appointed by the Lee County Commission to serve four-year terms at the pleasure of the Lee County Commission.  Presently serving are: Arthur Jones, chairman; Zack Sprayberry, vice chairman; Edna Ward, secretary/treasurer; Steve Penland and Thomas E. Peterson III.

The cemetery commission receives no taxpayer funding; it operates with money from private donations, which are tax deductible for federal returns.

Everyone is welcome to join in this effort Oct. 25. Bring snips, loppers, clippers or other small hand tools. Weed-eaters can also be used in parts of the cemetery. Even if someone has just an hour or two to pitch in and help, the participation will be appreciated.

Ross Cemetery is located in a residential area in Opelika between 1414 and 1700 India Road.