Photojournalist Fran Barber shared this May 13th message from Eddie Irby, Jr.
As many of you know, Oaklawn Memorial Cemetery, 1850 Holt Road, is the final resting place of many prominent African American Mobilians, as well as Tuskegee Airmen and Buffalo Soldiers (see the many websites devoted to these men.)
In the last couple of years, there's been a concerted effort by volunteers to clean the cemetery, identify those buried there and, recently, to place an American flag on each grave. And on September 6, 2018, the cemetery was listed on the Alabama Historic Cemetery Register. The marker pictured gives much of the history of the cemetery and something of the estimated 10,000 buried on the 20-acre site.
The message from Eddie Irby, Jr. is quoted below:
"Saturday (May 13) was a day I will never forget. Not only was it the day before Mothers Day, but as I went to visit Historical Oaklawn to watch the new traffic going in and out and the rain ceased for a while, I noticed a man probably in his 50' s park his pickup directly behind the flagpoles.
"(He) walked deeply into the area that the Coast Guard had just finished (cleaning) the day before. He came back to the truck but did not get out his weedeater or lawnmower.
"Instead, he took out some flowers and balloons and went back into the cemetery. There he got down on his knees and began to pray, kissed the headstone and ground.
"I started to approach the man to give him my card, but I was stopped in my tracks as the man began to cry out loud.
"I went back to the middle of the road and directed traffic to the Cemetery lane entrance. I did not know Ms Ann across the street was watching also.
"Appearntly this person was extremely close to him (the visitor to the cemetery.) He stood up, faced the sky and prayed out loud again.
"I went back to the entrance to redirect traffic to the other entrance. I stood out in the street as the man got back into his pickup, smiled at me and drove off.
"I stood frozen for a few minutes but felt very good and thanked God for providing such a precious moment."
Mr. Irby closed by saying "Thanks to the USCGC for going the extra mile on their clean-up day. That one incident made the sacrifice that WE ALL have done so far, made my day. God is good and the assault (cleaning the cemetery and other work there.") continues."
Signed Eddie Irby Jr.
For more on Oaklawn Memorial Cemetery, check out the websites online. For more information on "Operation Overlord" to restore Oaklawn Memorial Cemetery, follow Fran Barber's FB page.