“Cemetery space is just like any real estate: it’s location, location, location,” Fells said.
Sabuk plans international online marketing of the cemetery as a destination final resting spot. “Look how beautiful it is here,” he said. “Who wouldn’t want to come here?”
Thurmond still loves to stroll the grounds, where the only thing that interrupts the serenity is the sound of Navy jets overhead. She continuously stopped at graves to tell Sabuk stories of the people buried there.
At the entrance, there’s fire chief “Dickie” Wardlow, who died in a fiery 1996 crash on the Palmetto Expressway with his wife and good friend.
There’s the engineer of the famous St. Louis Gateway Arch, who arranged for his casket to be put on a bronze bed inside a crypt with yellow silk drapes. “His linens were Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy,” Thurmond said. “He did the same thing for his wife.”
Thurmond kept meticulous records of the gravesite sales and burial in a single ledger that is now 3 1/2 inches thick. Sabuk plans to digitize all the information, with an option for clients to add biographical information.
Thurmond and her brother tried to re-create the lives of people through her meticulous artwork on the headstones and markers. One small marker says “God’s Little Angel,” the name she gave to an unidentified newborn whose badly decomposed remains were discovered buried near a church in 1991.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office excavated the body five years ago to see if new DNA methods could identify the child, but the remains were too decomposed.
Thurmond always wondered if it was a boy or girl. She knows who the mother was: “Every April, flowers or a rose show up on the grave.”