Sat | Apr 13, 2024

Family takes two years to find grave in bushy MoBay cemetery

Published:Monday | December 12, 2022 | 5:18 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Leroy Gayle chops away the overgrown vegetation that covered the grave of the late Roderick Coore, who has been buried in the historic Pye River Cemetery in St James for the last 39 years.
Leroy Gayle chops away the overgrown vegetation that covered the grave of the late Roderick Coore, who has been buried in the historic Pye River Cemetery in St James for the last 39 years.
Pye River Cemetery in Montego Bay is poorly maintained, an aggrieved family has said.
Pye River Cemetery in Montego Bay is poorly maintained, an aggrieved family has said.
Donna Coore, daughter of the late Roderick Coore, cleans her father's grave after two years of searching for it.
Donna Coore, daughter of the late Roderick Coore, cleans her father's grave after two years of searching for it.
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WESTERN BUREAU: A St James family says it took them two years to find their father’s tombstone at the Pye River Cemetery owing to inaccessible terrain and overgrown trees that shrouded the burial ground. Their father, Roderick Coore, was buried...

WESTERN BUREAU:

A St James family says it took them two years to find their father’s tombstone at the Pye River Cemetery owing to inaccessible terrain and overgrown trees that shrouded the burial ground.

Their father, Roderick Coore, was buried there 39 years ago, and each year they return to clean the area and pay their respects.

However, during a 2019 visit from overseas, where most of them now reside, they were unable to access the grave because the cemetery had been transformed into a mini forest.

“We went back in 2020 twice. The condition remained the same. Again, February 2022, and it got even worse. My brother and I went back November 2022 with a crew of men whom we paid to clear the area in order find it. This process took us about three hours,” Donna Coore told The Gleaner from her home in Florida.

Her brother, Victor Coore, was equally disheartened, stating that the tomb was mossy and unrecognisable until they scrubbed, scraped, and washed away the grime.

“We cheered a big relief, even though we were standing in what seemed to be the twilight zone,” said Coore, expressing shock at the condition of the facility, which is managed by the St James Municipal Corporation.

“The cemetery is in a deplorable condition. It is dilapidated and defunct. Having no knowledge of this area would lead one to believe that it is a mass of overgrown land. The gravestones are not visible when you enter the area, as they are covered in tangled vines, decayed wood, and leaves and huge trees create a canopy. Hence, it looks like a tale from the crypt,” said the family.

They feel that the contribution their father made to the parish of St James should see his final resting place in better condition.

The late Roderick Coore spent 15 years at Barnett Estate as a crane operator and another 15 years at the Montego Bay Wharf as a forklift driver.

Describing the state of the cemetery as an indictment on the city of Montego Bay and the parish, the family is questioning why the municipal authority has neglected the landmark.

“My father was a law-abiding citizen and contributed much to the city in that he gave years of service and for his burial spot to be neglected like this is an insult to his contribution,” lamented Sonia Coore Owen.

The Coores are convinced that Pye River is being neglected because the new cemetery sites have taken precedence. According to them Pye River is no longer considered the cemetery for burial.

“Also, there is an obvious neglect of laws that govern the maintenance of cemeteries. This is not a privately owned cemetery, and as such, the municipal authority should be held responsible for the unidentifiable condition,” said Victor Coore.

His sister, Maxine, said cemeteries are sacred sites that should be properly managed.

Pye River is one of the oldest remaining public cemeteries in the parish. Chief executive officer at the St James Municipal Corporation, Gerard Lee, says it is running out of space.

Lee said that the few spaces were left at Pye River were mainly for paupers and families who had reserved plots years ago.

Just over a year ago, the municipal authority called for a public-private partnership to maintain the cemetery.

Efforts to get a comment from Montego Bay Mayor Leeroy Williams were unsuccessful. Calls to his phone went unanswered.

However, Dwight ‘Debo’ Crawford, the municipal councillor in whose division the cemetery falls, said he last oversaw bush clearing, cleaning, and repairs there between December 2021 and January this year.

The councillor said that Tourism Enhancement Fund funding financed the repair of several open tombs as well as landscaping. He pledged that clean-up work at the facility would begin by year end.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com