In 2007, the Greensboro News & Record ran an article on Proximity Cemetery; an abandoned, derelict cemetery located on Phillips Avenue in the eastern part of Greensboro- not too far from Wendover and Bessemer Avenues. The cemetery was garbage and weed strewn with nobody maintaining records of the deceased. Many headstones were broken, or stolen; some were thrown in a pile in the back corner. According to the N&R article, the cemetery was opened in approximately 1900 as a free burial place for the employees of Cone Mills and it is estimated that approximately 2,000 people are buried there.
In 2004, the cemetery was sold in conjunction with the Cone bankruptcy case. Finally after six years of nobody knowing what to do with the cemetery and the city not wanting to own it, a neighbor on an adjoining property, John Sweeper, took it over.* He said that he felt compelled to make the place look beautiful out of the love for his neighborhood and respect for the deceased. He has worked diligently over the last two years making the cemetery accessible to those who have relatives buried there.
Mr. Sweeper must be doing something right because, according to his groundskeeper, about twenty people have been buried there over the last year or so. Families who have lived in the community their whole lives, once again, are finding it appealing to make Proximity Cemetery the final resting place for their deceased loved ones. Initially, people were buried in the cemetery simply based on the next available space when they died. Now, there is an effort to bury families together and the cemetery has a section for veterans and babies. There are three sections named after local textile mills: Proximity, Revolution, and White Oak. As more data become available about who is buried there, information is being posted on find-a-grave.
For someone who knows how to write community grants or for a religious community in search of a LOCAL "mission," restoring this cemetery to its original, beautiful state is a worthy undertaking. It is, after all, part of Greensboro's textile mill history. Most immediately, Proximity Cemetery could use a hard surface on the circular drive that Mr. Sweeper added. He could use help getting tombstones leveled and archived. The cemetery could use plants for landscaping and a few benches to sit on... maybe a little prayer garden. It wouldn't take much........ Do we have any volunteers?
*Read the WFMY News article here.