About the only time a cemetery is remembered is when a love one passes or when someone vandalizes the final resting place of someone's loved one.

Today it is even becoming harder for cemeteries in Santa Rosa County, most of which are run privately by boards or groups such as a family or church.

The biggest problem today is the up keep of these locations where many loved ones are remembered with a headstone and some occasional flowers.

Thus the perpetual care for these cemeteries is falling on a few compared to the many.

"Our care is as perpetual as I can make it," said Bill Bledsoe, who oversees the Milton Benevolent Cemetery on Berryhill Rd. "We have no budget and we received only $3,500 a year from the city to help take care of 16 acres.

"That $3,500 a year barely takes care of the gas, oil, string for the trimmer, and repairs."
Finances have gotten so tough for the cemetery led by Bledsoe he had to let go of the only part-time worker he had that was making $8 a hour.

"People have stopped donating for the care of the cemetery," Bledsoe said. "We use to get some volunteers and community service workers, but this was too hard and too hot for them."

A little money comes to the Milton Benevolent cemetery, but that is only when they sell a plot for $400.

Currently they have around 400 plots left, but part of the deal when purchasing a lot is to take care of the lot itself.

That is not only a rub for large cemeteries like the Milton Benevolent Cemetery, but Milton's other large cemetery, Keyser St. Cemetery.

"Our first problem is that we cannot charge for a plot," said R.L. Lewis, a Milton City Councilman who headed the Keyser St. Cemetery Board until earlier this year. "This land was donated for the (blacks) to have a cemetery to be buried in.

"The money we get barely helps up keep it clean. We ask for donations from families with relative here and the local churches, but times are getting tougher."

Lewis pointed out it cost them $400 to $500 to have the cemetery mowed one time and they try to have it mowed.

"The more we try to do the more hell we catch," Lewis said. "At what it costs to have the cemetery mowed it eats up the money fast.

"People will call and complain that they visited their mother and the grass was so high, but we do not get any money to help us take care of the cemetery itself."

This is not just a problem in Milton, but all across Santa Rosa County with the various small cemeteries like Strickland Cemetery on Highway 90 for an example.

Back on May 5, 2008 in the County Commissioner District 2 (Bob Cole) Newsletter, a new organization was introduced dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the cemeteries throughout Santa Rosa County.

The Santa Rosa County Cemetery Association was to pay particular attention to those historic cemeteries.

At the time membership was $5 a year for an individual, $10 for a non-profit, and $20 a year for a for-profit organization. Lifetime membership was set at $100 for non-profits and $200 for for-profits.

Those with the association at the time are no longer with the group and according to Santa Rosa County public information officer Joy Tsubooka they are not sure the group is still active.

Despite the financial problems and concerns about the future upkeep, Mike Lewis, owner of Lewis Funeral Home, sees an improvement.

"The cemeteries look a lot better than they use to," Lewis said. "It takes a special person to be willing to take care of a cemetery with all that is involved and record keeping."

Despite state regulations only three cemeteries are registered with the state of Florida and fall under the state rules and regulations - Memory Park Cemetery and Serenity Gardens, both in Milton, and Rose Lawn Cemetery in Gulf Breeze.

"Because of them being a private, church, or family cemetery they do not fall under the guidelines of the state," said Nina Ashley, Communications Coordinator for the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Consumer Services.

Some feel it is just a matter of pride and knowing help is needed.

"I believe the citizens of Santa Rosa County would come together and volunteer on a monthly basis to keep them cleaned," said
Brenda Hudgens on the Press Gazette Facebook Page. "There is pride in our town and I am willing to help."

While some are willing to take that step others are wanting to see it become more of a community services.

"Not having anyone to help is not true," said Brittney Camp on Facebook. "There is a prison full of people. Not only volunteer, but prisoners can help as well.

"It is very sad that some of these places are getting overgrown because people have family in them."

The Milton Benevolent Cemetery will get some help today when the NJROTC of Milton High School participates in a volunteer clean up and Lewis has tried to foster a plan at the Keyser Cemetery where people adopt a plot to help keep it clean if they are cleaning up their family plot.


Here are just a few of the cemeteries we found listed online in Santa Rosa County
Allen Cemetery -
Ates Cemetery -
Bagdad Cemetery -
Big Canoe Cemetery
Black Cemetery
Black Hammock Cemetery
Carlney Cemetery
Chavers Cemetery
Chumuckla Cemetery
Concord Cemetery
Coon Hill Cemetery
Cora Cemetery
Crain Cemetery
Crossroads Cemetery
Flowers Field Cemetery
Forest Lawn of Santa Rosa
Foster Cemetery
Friendship Cemetery
Harold Cemetery
Hickory Hammock Cemetery
Jay Cemetery
Juniper Cemetery
Magnolia Cemetery
McLellan Cemetery
Memorial Serenity Gardens
Milton Cemetery
Mitchell Cemetery
Mount Carmel Cemetery
Old Fidelis Cemetery
Old Spring Hill Cemetery
Pine Level Cemetery
Pine View Cemetery
Pleasant Home Cemetery
Sellersville Cemetery
Serenity Gardens
Strickland Cemetery
Sullivan Cemetery
Walling Cemetery
Welcome Cemetery
Williams Memorial Cemetery