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Graves damaged, caskets exposed at Seffner cemetery following Tropical Storm Eta

Posted at 4:50 PM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 11:41:05-05

SEFFNER, Fla. — Families in Seffner are devastated after Tropical Storm Eta tore through the Tampa Bay area, uprooting nearly a dozen graves at the Mayberry Cemetery.

The cemetery has graves that date back more than a century, and when the storm rolled through, it brought down a large tree, which damaged dozens of graves, and even exposed the caskets of several people buried there.

“My husband being one that you can see right here,” said Jeannette Brown, who has several family members buried at Mayberry Cemetery.

For Jeannette Brown and the rest of her family, seeing all of the uprooted graves is unsettling.

“We’ve got other family members here, you can’t even see their casket because the tree is covering everything,” said Brown.

Generations of her family members are buried there on the Mayberry Cemetery grounds.

“My family’s been in this area prior to 1855, so most of my family members are here… Aunts, uncles, great grands,” said Howard Stillings, a relative of Brown, who also has family buried on the grounds.

Around a dozen graves were damaged and uprooted, and some are still completely covered after Tropical Storm Eta toppled a large tree and disrupted the graves they’ve visited for decades.

“I get emotional, you know, like I said, close family members, people in the community, if you don’t know someone, you know of someone who has family members out here,” said Carolyn Pace, Brown's daughter.

Now the community cemetery needs help restoring and preserving the gravesites where they once laid their family members to rest.

“We do plan on generations here, cause this is the only cemetery that we’ve known,” said Pace.

It's something this family believes the entire Seffner community has stakes in.

“Ancestry starts here. This is where you come from, your great grandmother, your great grandfather, it started with these people that’s out here right now, so we need to preserve that,” said Brown.

Families with loved ones buried there, as well as the Mayberry Cemetery Association, all plan to meet at the cemetery this Saturday morning, to help restore some of the graves, and get started on removing the tree.

They’re asking for help from the rest of the community as well.

Anyone who would like to help with the cleanup is asked to meet at Mayberry Cemetery, 10906 Bessie Dix Rd, Seffner, on Saturday, Nov. 21, at 9 a.m.