The Kenly Cemetery has been serving the town’s need for public burial space since 1897 and much of the town’s history can be revisited with a walk thru the cemetery. Records show that in 1899 a parcel of land was sold to the town of Kenly by Pennie and Barnes Watkins to be used as a cemetery. The original deed is for 65/88 of an acre and was sold to the town for $25.00. In 1919, the town purchased an additional 5,015 sq. ft. adjoining the old cemetery from T. J. and Dillie Jones. Florence Peacock owned land adjoining the cemetery. As the land purchased by the town began to be filled with graves, Mrs. Peacock’s descendents, Percy and Sallie Peacock, sold plots of grave sites to individuals. In 2010, sites are available from the Peacock family by contacting Wanda Durham of Kenly. All of the property mentioned above is included in The Kenly Cemetery. Kenly Cemetery Care is a non profit corporation whose only purpose is to provide maintenance of the grounds to insure that it is a well kept resting place now and for future generations.
Through most of it’s history, care for the cemetery grounds was done by individual families who tended their family plots and encouraged others to do the same. By the mid-1950’s, the Kenly Women’s Club and later the Kenly Garden Club took up the challenge to oversee the cemetery’s care and records show that “Mr. Pete” was paid $5 a week to keep the grass mowed.
It was not until 1977 that the Kenly Cemetery Commission was established. Officers were: Senie Hinnant, President; Lloyd Edwards, Vice President; Suzanne Bailey, Secretary; Marie Etheridge, Treasurer; Dorothy Kline, Assistant Treasurer. In addition to the officers, members of the Board of Directors were: Ed Luper, Kirby Aycock, Virginia Kirby, Gertrude Knight, Joyce Overman, Harold McRae, Fred Grady, Theramae Jackson, Roger Watkins. This group worked hard in establishing By-Laws and formulating a plan to provide funds. The first fees were collected for covering the cost of care, and participation was spotty. These fees were and are still called “perpetual care” fees, and until the last few years, each lot was charged $25 for care forever. To make the challenge even tougher, the cemetery’s charter allowed only the interest off savings to be used for care. The principal was to be held to insure the future care of the cemetery.
In the years that followed, interest rates fluctuated and by 1999 after several years of struggling to maintain care at an acceptable level with limited funds and hard work, the Board of Directors of what was then known as Kenly Cemetery Care were faced with the challenge of financing the care of the cemetery for the present and future and improving the overall appearance. Members of the Board of Directors at the time were: Fred Grady, B. H. Hinnant, Jan Oldham, Theramae Jackson, Hazel Barnes, Don Boyette, Dorman Whitley, Janis Whitley, Pat Pate, Jerry Little, Braxton Boykin, Jean Boykin.
The Board voted to update cemetery care records with names and addresses of plot owners and/or their families and to ask for special contributions to supplement interest income. Application was made and received from the IRS making Kenly Cemetery Care, Inc. tax exempt and donations tax deductible. The first newsletter was mailed informing recipients of the cemetery’s need for funds and giving guidelines regarding floral arrangements placed at gravesites. The option was given to contribute to the permanent fund from which only interest could be drawn or to the general fund which could be used 100% for the upkeep of the cemetery. Contributions could be made to either fund as a memorial. The fundraising became the “In Loving Memory” Campaign led by Grethel M. Boyette who was assisted by Hazel Barnes, Don Boyette, and other Board Members.
Grethel Boyette created A “In Loving Memory Book” and placed it at Coley Funeral Home containing names of donors and who the donation was in memory of. Letters mailed totaled 650 and donations were received from 311 families.
B. H. Hinnant volunteered his time and equipment to keep the grass mowed and made other improvements at the cemetery without compensation. B. H. continued this great contribution for 3 years. Volunteer work days were held and by the Spring of 2000 the general appearance of the Cemetery was improved by planting shrubbery at driveway entrances, cutting of dead and dying trees, removal of growth in borders, setting up fallen stones, improving driveways, and removal of long forgotten and unsightly flowers from grave sites. A fence was installed along the eastern border with new shrubbery in front and new shrubbery was planted at driveway entrances by a special donor.
In 2000 the Board of Directors were: B. H. Hinnant (President), Pat Pate (Vice President), Theramae Jackson (Secretary), Louise Cuddington (Treasurer), Evelyn Ellis (Assistant Treasurer), Hazel Barnes, Don Boyette, Janis Whitley, Fred Grady, Jean Boykin, Jerry Little, Chip Coley, Braxton Boykin, Dorman Whitley, Retha Narron. At the annual meeting in the Spring of 2000 a resolution was adopted expressing special thanks to long time board member Jan Oldham who retired from the board, Fred Grady who was President for many years and a long time board member, and to Hazel Barnes who was a long time board member and served as Treasurer for many years. The Board adopted guidelines for floral arrangements in the cemetery:
The Newsletter and In Loving Memory Campaign was continued in 2000. Improvements continued to be made at the cemetery by volunteers and with donations. Kenly Cemetery signs were placed at two entrances. Grading and filling was done to driveways in preparation for future paving.
In 2001, Grethel Boyette was given special recognition for her tireless work in fundraising and for her many visits to the cemetery to do plantings and other work to improve the appearance of the cemetery. B. H. Hinnant was also recognized for his generosity and efforts to revitalize the cemetery’s financial condition by the contribution of his equipment and manpower. B. H. donated labor and equipment to pave the cemetery streets, with only the cost of materials coming from cemetery funds.
In 2003 Don Boyette was elected President. Heidi Sullivan joined the Board and became Secretary. Theraemae Jackson retired as Secretary after more than 20 years but remained on the board of which she had been a member since 1977. Theraemae was given special thanks for her long service and contributions to the cemetery. The contract for mowing the cemetery was awarded to McLaughlin Lawn Maintenance. In spite of successful fundraising, historically low interest rates on CD’s did not generate enough income to pay for mowing. Fundraising efforts and the "In Loving Memory" Campaign was continued with over 1000 newsletters being mailed. In 2003, the remaining dead and dying trees were removed. The cement block wall was repaired and painted. There was a notation made that the American Legion has donated and installed a lighted flagpole.
In the Spring of 2005, Wanda Durham, Wilbert Durham, and Caughman Watson joined the Board of Directors. The old flower bin at the back of the cemetery was improved by adding lattice, no trespassing signs were erected at the cemetery following vandalism and the Kenly Police agreed to make regular sweeps through the cemetery in the future. In 2006 Pat West became a Board member.
In February, 2007, Pat McLaughlin passed away. Pat and her husband, Bill, operated McLaughlin Lawn Maintenance. They had mowed and cared for the grounds at the cemetery for several years. Following Pat’s passing, the contract for grounds keeping of the cemetery was awarded to Travis Daughtry Lawn Service of Smithfield.
Dorman Whitley, Janice Whitley, and Chip Coley left the Board of Directors in 2008 and the new board members elected were Janet Wilkinson, Peggy Holland, and Anthony Minchew.
In 2009, stumps from previous tree cuttings were ground and disposed of. Also in 2009, B. H. Hinnant retired from the Board and Jackie Balance became a member. B. H. serviced faithfully for almost 20 years. He greatly added to the financial well being of the cemetery by keeping the grounds for 3 years without pay and by providing labor and equipment for paving the cemetery streets. The Hinnant family’s contributions made a mark and will long be remembered. Thank you, B. H.
In 2010, Grethel Boyette, retired as “In Loving Memory” chairperson and Site Committee chair. Grethel worked diligently and tirelessly for more than a decade and was the champion for keeping our cemetery well cared for and providing funding for future generations. She worked planting and watering shrubs, cleaning up old flowers, and cleaning unsightly growth. She contributed financially anonymously in many ways. Grethel has motivated others to continue the work that she cannot do due to failing health. Thank you, Grethel.
On February 9th, 2010, the annual meeting was held at the Kenly Fire Department. Officers and Directors were elected. President: Don Boyette, Vice-President: Pat Pate, Secretary: Heidi Sullivan, Treasurer: Louise Cuddington, Assistant Treasurer: Evelyn Ellis. Other directors: Jean Boykin, Braxton Boykin, Peggy Holland, Pat West, Jackie Balance, Anthony Minchew, Wanda Durham, Theraemae Jackson, Janet Wilkinson, Caughman Watson. In Loving Memory Co-Chairs: Louise Cuddington & Janet Wilkinson. Site Committee: Jackie Balance, Caughman Watson, Carolyn and Jerry Little. With interest rates continuing at a historic low, it is necessary to continue fundraising in order to pay for care for today and to provide for care for generations to come. Newsletters will be mailed to approximately 1000 people in April 2010. The Board’s goal continues to be to keep the grounds of the cemetery well groomed and a fitting resting place for the loved ones buried there.
Compiled as of March 14, 2010 by Lousie Cuddington