Lufkin's oldest cemetery reveals renovation, new pathway

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Lufkin's oldest cemetery has undergone months of restoration and land clearing in hopes of preserving the piece of history.

Keltys Cemetery created hundreds of years ago, suffered damage from vandals and needed attention, and residents gathered Friday to pay respects and honor the completion of those renovations.

Janice Gill was one of those residents and said she had no idea that she had family in Keltys Cemetery until she saw her aunt's name on a list of the graves.

"Her daughter is still living," Gill said. "And, she wasn't able to come here. But, I want to give her that picture and tell her that I visited here."

Back in August, the vandalism of the cemetery left it crumbling, but it's now a welcome sight to people like Gill.

"Just a blessing to many people, really," Gill said. "And, this is so good just for our city."

Bill Royle was the resident to come up with the idea after he saw what the cemetery could one day stand for.

"It's a way for us to keep up with our memories of some of these founding people for Lufkin," Royle said.

However, it ended up being a team effort, with assistance from the Neighborhood Leadership Council, which owned the land.

"Our part was easy because we had the property," said City Councilman Robert Shankle. "And, so we wanted to make sure that they had access to go on and visit the loved ones."

Access to the cemetery has been limited since its creation in 1870, so a local business offered to clear a path.

"I told him I would help him out because it was it was in Lufkin," said Ernesto Pantoja. the owner of the Lufkin Fencing Company. "I'm from here so that's why I wanted to help him out."

The path is also considered a nature walk, but restorer Mark Pearson feels like the beauty is where the path leads.

"To be able, for my part, to bring awareness to those that went before us, that still have legacies,"Pearson said.

Pearson is still keeping busy in Lufkin.

"We're currently on Lufkin Avenue doing some projects in the Glendale Cemetery, the Knight Cemetery, Hillcrest, and Odd Fellar Cemetery," Pearson said.

The entrance to the path is gated, but people are welcome to go through any time.

Copyright 2018 KTRE. All rights reserved.