NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — All Saints Day and All Souls Day, are days to reflect on the faith of the dearly departed and are a steadfast tradition in New Orleans.
One Group says they want more from the city, in terms of respecting a need for new cemeteries and affordable burial sites.
Since 1879, Holt Cemetery has been a resting place for those who have passed on. 142 years worth of bodies, lay in its grounds, including the late great jazz pioneer, Buddy Bolden.
Holt Cemetery is not in the best of shape and there is a dire need for more cemetery space. According to a city spokesperson, “The City is aware of the limited burial space available at Holt Cemetery, which is becoming a dire situation at best.”
They continued, “The City’s Department of Property Management has been actively pursuing a new space for a public cemetery for some time and has committed bond funding for not only upkeep of our current cemeteries, but also the acquisition of a new space. Additionally, we have requested a mid-year budget adjustment to accommodate additional cemetery personnel.”
About a year ago, the city announced plans to establish Voscoville Cemetery in a Gentilly Neighborhood.
Talks of those plans have since been quiet after residents voiced their concerns for not wanting a cemetery in the middle of their residential community.
Wake is a non-profit advocacy organization that works with the bereaved in finding affordable burial options. They have been in communication with the city and they want Holt Cemetery closed to new burials. They also want the city to expedite its plans for finding new cemetery spaces acceptable to residents.
Liz Dunnebacke of Wake says, “the six cemeteries that the city operates provide burial for $750, which makes it accessible for the average person. And yet, of those six cemeteries, this is the only one that can take in new bodies. It’s been overfilled since the 1980s.”
The pandemic has since compounded the need for burial space and more bodies are being buried at Holt since the coronavirus’ impact on New Orleans.
As many visit the cemetery over the next two days for the two holidays of reflection (All Souls and All Saints Days), some find what many have discovered over Holt Cemetery’s history; that their resting loved ones have been moved to make for more space.
Gaynell Brady is a historian and genealogist who also has relatives buried at Holt and says, “Through the decades, people have advocated for closing this cemetery and not having any more burials. People are constantly buried on top of each other in this cemetery.”
Brady continues, “I have 15 relatives that are buried here at Holt Cemetery and I’m constantly finding more, as I do my family’s genealogy. As a citizen, we are just demanding more. We require more respect for our family members but because the grounds are constantly being disturbed, we have no way to truly preserve our ancestors’ memories.”