July 12, 2016

R.I.P. To The Neighbors

By Clay Bailey
– The Commercial Appeal –

Looking over the amenities for homes near East Kenney Drive and Bedford Lane in Germantown, one selling point potential buyers don’t usually see is “great view of a graveyard.”

But nestled among the landscaped yards, triple garages of SUVs and $700,000 homes of Bedford Plantation is the Bedford family plot – a handful of adult graves apparently undisturbed since 1916, when Virginia Kenney Bedford was laid to rest.

The family graveyard sits in a triangle-shaped tract formed by East Kenney and Bedford Lane. The well manicured site has a low ornamental iron fence that cordons off the tombstones of Virginia, husband Julian and a few other Bedford family members. Several trees shade the family burial ground.

Graveyard aside, the surrounding neighborhood is pretty lively.

Kids play football in the area. People walk their dogs alongside the graveyard and on Halloween, the neighborhood gathers for a movie and pizzas before hitting the streets trick-or-treating.

“That may be kind of sacrilegious to have a big party there on Halloween,” said Sandy Santi, who along with her husband, John, and their two children lives across East Kenney from the cemetery.

The subdivision, developed by Boyle Investment in the mid-1990s, was once part of 640 acres owned by Julian and Virginia, who settled in the Bailey Station community about 1851, according to the historic marker on the site.

Despite setting their eternal roots in the area, there wasn’t even a ghostly whisper of protest from the family members when developers applied to build expensive houses around their resting place.

They didn’t say a word, as a matter of fact. They were probably glad it was cleaned up,” said Bob Dalhoff of Dalhoff Thomas Daws, a planning and landscape architecture firm.

Dalhoff was working for Fisher & Arnold at the time, and he was involved in the development of Bedford Plantation from the start.

They had heard there might be a couple of graves on the property, but Dalhoff acknowledged it was “a little bit of a surprise” when he discovered the markers lying on the unkempt ground.

“It was pretty much in ruins,” Dalhoff said,”…I was hacking through the weeds and came upon it. Even then, it was hard to tell what it was.”

Developers could have moved the graves, but that would involve tracking down ancestors and going through some other formalities for permission.

Instead, they developed the subdivision and made the burial grounds part of the plan.

“It needed some respect,” Dalhoff said.

The result was a common area that is treated as the neighborhood park.

Homeowners have overcome whatever creepy, spooky feeling might normally exist from living near a graveyard.

Santi says the superstitions are never mentioned.

“We were one of the first houses here,” Santi said. “We just thought it was neat.”