Centerville Cemetery offers columbarium

Board members, left to right, incude Missy Howard, Pinkey Peake, Johnette Watson, Kenny Mattox, Rebecca Thompson and Janet Boykin. Members not shown include Spencer Robinson and Pat Raines. | Rose Mitchell

FAIRFIELD COUNTY – A rural Fairfield County cemetery has added something they say isn’t available anywhere nearby: a columbarium, which is a monument-like structure that holds urns filled with ashes of the deceased.

Centerville Cemetery, which began as a family burial spot more than 50 years ago, has grown to a nonprofit-run cemetery that now contains around 600 graves and, in the last few years, has expanded with the purchase of more land and other physical and technological updates.

“The cemetery was started sort of as a family cemetery. The first burial was in 1958 – it was the grandson of the man who donated the land for the cemetery,” says Pinkey Peake, a longtime member of the Ridgeway Cemetery Association board of directors, which oversees it.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints took over the cemetery at that time, but maybe 25 years ago, the church gave it to a board of directors, and that’s what we work under now.”

The columbarium, a common feature of cemeteries in larger cities, was installed because, in a recent trend attributed to tight finances and cost comparison, more people locally have begun to express an interest in cremation.

“The cost is probably half or less than a regular burial, so more people are choosing to be cremated,” says Kenny Mattox, president of the cemetery association. “It’s new to a lot of people, especially in rural communities like this, but cremation is becoming very popular, and we want to try to accommodate that, to provide whatever we can.”

Located in Centerville, a tiny community that has no stores – only houses, with most of the residents related to one another – the cemetery holds an importance to the community, he says.

“We had family that grew up all around the cemetery area,” says Peake, echoing the thought. “So, I’ve served on the board for about 20 years.”

Mattox, she says, is also a longtime board member, and many members of the all-volunteer board are motivated by their personal ties to the community and the people who are buried there. For those who came before, the cemetery was a community effort.

“There were so many others who have spent so much time over the years donating time, energy, money,” Peake says. “I could give you several names of people that just put so much into it.”

At the same time, Mattox and Peake say, the Centerville Cemetery is open to the broader community: anyone who might want themselves or their loved ones to be laid to rest in a peaceful country locale.

“There’s still a lot of tradition there, but… now outside of the community, people are learning of the cemetery,” says Peake. “The plots in our cemetery are way cheaper than in town. That attracts some people, and we’re fine with that. We’re absolutely fine with that.”

The cemetery is located at 867 Centerville Road in Ridgeway.

Entrance to the Centerville cemetery. | Pinkey Peake

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