Through the years I’ve heard many comments about the beauty of Bonifay’s cemetery. At this time of year when the azaleas are in full bloom, it is especially pretty. Located on the northwest side of the town on a rolling hill, the view from all directions is refreshing. Looking north, a stand of native red bud‘s bright pink blooms delight the eye. To the south a tiered planting separates the cemetery proper from the surrounding woodlands. On the west side bright shades of hot pink azaleas delineate the white and black portions of the burial grounds, harking back to yesteryear when strict separation of the races was the law of the land. The cemetery was designated when the city was chartered and the streets laid out by Mr. Banfil, although he is not buried there himself. His grave is off Banfil Ave just west of the old L&N Train Depot location.
Many folks give Bonifay Garden Club credit for the fine condition of the cemetery, but it is actually cared for by the city of Bonifay under the direction of a committee appointed by the city council. However, the beautification projects which account for the beauty of the place is the protégé of the Garden Club. The late Mrs. Brooks (Marie Armstrong) Padgett is credited with starting the on-going project to beautify and keep up the city’s burial grounds. Her mother, Mrs. Susan Armstrong, had taken a personal interest in the cemetery. Since the early 1950’s the committee that was formed under Mrs. Padgett’s leadership always includes at least one Garden Club member. In cooperation with the city council and a crew paid by the city the place has been kept beautiful with the help of donations from the families whose loved ones are buried there. Others I can recall who have been involved in the improvement and upkeep of the cemetery are Mrs. Harvey(Palmer) Spears, Mrs. Ben (Mary Wilcox) Swindle, Mrs. R.H. (Sarah Green) Segrest, Mrs. George (Ann) Howell, Mrs. Alex (Mozell Miller) Shepherd, Mrs. Clifford (Annie Lee Brock) Williams, Mrs. Ernest Cox, Mrs. Parker Grant, Mrs. Pat (Marion Creel) Kelly, Mr. and Mrs. Maston (Eula Lee Ross) Barden and too many others to name, most of them deceased.
The current committee is composed of Mrs. Wilheminia (Wilcox) Belser, Mrs. Tom (Vonzie Brooks) Jenkins, Mrs. Willard (Joan Hand) Steverson, Mrs. Tom (Velma Jenkins) Stubbs, Mrs. Ed(Susan Treadwell ) Pittman, Mr. Kenneth Yates, and City Councilman Roger Brooks make up the committee. Mrs. J.W. (Edna Bellot) McDonald is an immediate past member. They have recently purchased and installed new gates at the entrance to the cemetery, which is on the east side. The stone enclosure with decorative iron gates featuring 5 flag standards guard the east entrance. James Sellers was instrumental in finding a source for the metal gates and the decorative stone. Roger Brooks located the flags.
Through the years the driveway has been lined with crepe myrtle. Beds of knockout roses and white decorative panels separate the entry and exit lanes. A carrollian tower marks the skyline to the northeast. It has recently been refurbished with paint and a new metal roof, a project of Mr. Yates.
When I was teaching 8th grade at Bonifay Middle School, visiting the nearby city cemetery was an end-of the year activity. It is just the right distance to the school to make the walk there and back within a period of class time. At first the students thought it a little weird to visit a cemetery, but then they really “got into it.” They were assigned to find an epitaph or two or look for Civil War veterans, or other veterans. Some asked about the circumstances of the death of a brother and sister who died on the same day. I was able to give them sketchy details of the drowning that occurred in Pate Pond of a Miller brother and sister. Visiting the cemetery turned out to be a really good activity as much history is contained there.
Today, it is still a beautiful and serene place to visit even if you don’t have family there. You are also urged to make a donation to the cemetery fund, especially if It’s the burial place of family members. Tax deductible donations may be sent to the City of Bonifay Cemetery Fund or given to any committee member.