Historic, hidden Myrtle Beach cemetery being restored after many years

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 11:33 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Tucked away behind the Myrtle Beach Convention Center and the Myrtle Beach Health Department, the Oak Street Cemetery is something that’s been out of sight and out of mind for many years.

It sits on a lot measuring three-fourths of an acre and is the final resting place for African American veterans from both World Wars as well as the Korean and Vietnam wars.

The City of Myrtle Beach bought the property in 1992, but it’s since received some needed attention.

This past spring, the city along with crews from the Ocean Woods Cemetery started restoring the area.

The project began in March with the removal of an old, rusted chain link fence that was at least 50 years old.

Crews were also able to remove leave and dirt built up over the years after 20 dump truck loads were taken out and a large number of trees were removed from the area.

The cemetery holds a special place for Myrtle Beach residents and leaders such as Cookie Goings, Director of Neighborhood Services for the City of Myrtle Beach

She has a great-grandfather, Moses Dennison, who rests at the cemetery.

“People resting here were a part of the effort to bring Myrtle Beach where she is today,” said Goings. “This is a history lesson for all of us. Everybody who claims to be a resident of the City of Myrtle Beach, regardless of the neighborhood in which they live, this is her story. This is history.”

The South Atlantic Monument team inserted concrete foundations to all headstones in need to prevent them from sinking.

The work now allows many headstones to sit upright after many years.

“I kind of make an analogy,” said Goings. “The headstone is upright, as it should be for a man who was upright for a man is standing for his family in his neighborhood and one of the first to help build the tourism and hospitality industry of the city where he worked at the Oak Forest Hotel as a chef.”

Some recent additions to the cemetery included the installation of a new black metal fence costing as well as painting all the graves throughout the cemetery white.

On Wednesday, crews planted sunshine bushes, azaleas, and knockout roses in the front entryway and installed a water irrigation system.

Kurt Klepper, the Cemetery Manager of Ocean Woods, has played a vital role in the project.

“I can be proud of it now when I come to maintain it,” he said. “It’s a tremendous amount of history in this cemetery. It’s a huge amount of veterans that need some respect shown to them. So that was kind of my motivation behind it all.”

And as the restoration continues, Goings said she’s proud to watch the progress.

“The final resting place of your loved one is now what is expected,” said Goings. “I can look back at it and say, ‘Oh it took forever,’ But the thing is, we’re here now, and the now is what I want to celebrate with the other residents who have loved ones here.”

The city is looking to install a a new signage archway in the near future.

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