The Cullman County Cemetery Board is preparing to take over the ownership of Cullman Memory Gardens after years of legal and financial turmoil, and the board is looking for the community’s support in improving the conditions of the neglected cemetery.
The board was established several years ago
The five-person cemetery board — made up of Chairwoman Amy Walker, Ron Foust, Austin Hall, Jerry Smith and Eddie Williams — all have loved ones buried in the cemetery and are serving on a volunteer basis without any compensation.
“Every board member has family here,” Walker said. “It’s personal.”
Walker said the board has already completed some work on the cemetery grounds with the permission of the current owner, such as demolishing two dilapidated buildings, replacing the fountain in the middle of the cemetery with a flower bed and pressure washing the mausoleum building.
She said they have also been working to clear out tree stumps and shrubbery to make mowing easier, and are looking to hire professionals to come in and mow once or twice a month.
For the last seven years, a group of volunteers has mowed and maintained the grounds, and their work is very much appreciated, but hiring a professional service to take over the work will give them some much needed help, Walker said.
There is also a large hole in the roof of the mausoleum that has been there for more than six months, so repairing that and the water damage inside the building will take financial support, she said.
The Cullman County Cemetery Board was created in 2016 by legislation written by State Rep. Randall Shedd, but the board has been unable to take over the cemetery because of long-lasting bankruptcy proceedings.
The cemetery’s owner, DeArbor LLC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2014, and the property has been managed by a state appointed trustee and bankruptcy court since then. Cache Private Capital, a Salt Lake City-based real estate corporation, is the current mortgage holder of the property after receiving it as collateral from money it loaned to DeArbor.
Now, the board is in talks with Cache Private Capital to take on the cemetery’s ownership under a new 501(c) charitable organization that is in the process of being created, Walker said.
She said there are still a few steps to be completed to formally create the organization, but it should happen in the near future.
“We’re just going through the IRS part, and because of the pandemic, no one can tell us how long that will take,” she said.
The cemetery’s owner has indicated that they will donate the cemetery to the board, but there will still be costs associated with the transfer of ownership, so the board is looking for financial support from the community and for the future costs of maintaining and improving Cullman Memory Gardens.
She said community fundraising events are in the works to help garner support from local residents, but tax-deductible donations can also be sent directly to the board to help make sure the cemetery is in the best shape it can be for the people who have loved ones there.
“The best way anybody can support this cemetery is by monetary donations,” Walker said.
Donations can be mailed to the Cullman Memory Gardens Cemetery Foundation at P.O. Box 964, Cullman, AL 35056.