PAHOKEE — There is an uproar going on since Tuesday, Aug. 18, on some social media sites used by city residents to keep up to date on happenings in their town, regarding the city-owned, historic Port Mayaca Cemetery.
Many of the victims of the two great hurricanes that struck the Lake Okeechobee region in the 1920s are buried there, and a remembrance ceremony usually takes place in the cemetery annually in September on one of the anniversaries of those storms, which killed thousands, to honor them.
Glenda Strickland posted the accompanying photograph showing evidence of a lack of “perpetual care” there on her own Facebook page Tuesday. She put it up on another page called “Pahokee Can”; then it was reposted to the page “Home Sweet Home.” One of that page’s admins is Mary Dobrow, who added more pictures Strickland had taken, saying she herself had visited, too, and confirmed the poor conditions.
“I was recently at the Port Mayaca Cemetery and found that the City of Pahokee is not taking care of our loved ones’ gravesites. This is very upsetting to me,” Strickland wrote to go with her half-dozen other photos.
Dobrow replied, “I thought at last night’s budget meeting the city manager said the cemetery was in good shape!” She was referring to the Pahokee City Commission’s first budget hearing for fiscal 2021, which took place virtually on Monday night.
Added Lisa Jernigan Adams, “Here we go again. This makes me sick. It used to be so well maintained.”
Strickland wrote: “This is my Great Uncle and Aunt Leon and Maryann Miller and Rudolph Hooks’ parents’ gravesites at Port Mayaca Cemetery. I hope everyone who has family there will help me complain, please…”
That resulted in the posting of email addresses of the city’s mayor and manager so citizens could contact them: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively.
Then John Samuel McKinstry, a Pahokee resident, began trying to organize a cemetery cleanup on his own. He is calling for helpers to meet him there on Aug. 22.
He said: “We need weed eaters and PEOPLE! Let’s Go, Pahokee Patriots! Either step up or shut the hell up! Saturday at the cemetery in Port Mayaca 10 a.m.!”
McKinstry continued on Wednesday, Aug. 19: “Needing riding mowers for cemetery cleanup! The more the better! The city isn’t going to do anything! It’s up to us!”
Back on May 27, Memorial Day weekend 2020, a city employee had posted to the cemetery discussion on “Pahokee Can” to introduce herself: Kelly Smith wrote: “If anyone has a issue with Port Mayaca Cemetery, please call my office. I am always at your service and pretty sure I have an answer to your complaints: 561-924-2362. And many thanks to those who have noticed change since I came on board!!”
Many compliments had come her way since she joined the city. She could not be reached immediately for comment on Wednesday.