Alliance volunteers clean Mineral Wells cemetery

MINERAL WELLS – A cemetery near Mineral Wells was cleared of brush on Friday by a group tasked with the cleanup of hundreds of rural cemeteries in Wood County.

The Rural Cemetery Alliance of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society cleared brush and trees from the Compton Cemetery off West Virginia 21, said Paul Bibbee, chairman of the alliance.

Bibbee, society President Bob Enoch, alliance Secretary Evan Frees, Bibbee’s son John Phipps and Phipps’ missionary friends through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cleaned the cemetery in about two hours on Friday morning. The missionaries are Elders Lopez, Ochsenbein, Baty, Lyman and Markowski.

“That’s what they do, serve people for two years,” Phipps said.

They started early and had adequate manpower, but that’s not always the case, according to Bibbee.

In Wood County there are more than 330 rural cemeteries, too much for a group of about a half dozen people to handle, he said. Several civic organizations lend a hand, Bibbee said.

“There’s a lot of them that are totally neglected,” Bibbee said. “Four or five of us just can’t go out and clean up 330 cemeteries every couple weeks.”

Compton was among the worst, he said.

Bibbee and Enoch went to the site last year when the vegetation had leaves. They couldn’t maneuver, he said.

“The brush was so thick you couldn’t even move around it,” Bibbee said.

Volunteers waited until there was no leaves so they could see where they were going and cutting, Bibbee said.

The alliance was formed through the Wood County Commission, which has designated May as Rural Cemetery Remembrance Month. The aim is to remind residents of the condition of cemeteries and encourage them to clean them, he said.

Remembrance activities will include a presentation by Jeff Smith on the Find the Grave program at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Parkersburg-Wood County Library, Bibbee said.

Another program about stories about rural cemeteries will be presented by Teresa Fordyce at 7 p.m. May 15 at the library, he said.

The Rural Cemetery Alliance Recognition Day will be held 3 p.m. May 31 at the Mt. Zion picnic shelter, Bibbee said. Patty Cooper will speak about traditional funeral foods, he said.