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Cemetery gets new ownership, name

Magnolia Funeral Home plans to operate a chapel at the former Forrest Memorial Park.

Staff photo by Jebb Johnston

A new name for Forrest Memorial Park signals new ownership with plans to improve the property.

Jimmy and Shelia Calvary, owners of Magnolia Funeral Home in Corinth, acquired the property in May and have changed the name to Magnolia Gardens. They also acquired Oaklawn Memorial Park in Booneville and Cypress Grove Cemetery — also known as Iuka Memorial Gardens — in Iuka.

The cemeteries became available for sale and seemed a good fit for the Calvarys, who are the fourth owners in 10 years of the former Forrest Memorial Park.

"We bury a good many people in that cemetery already," Jimmy Calvary said. "We thought we could better serve people if we owned it and take care of it."

Shelia Calvary is also excited to have ownership back in Alcorn County.

"Our heartstrings are attached for many reasons," she said, "so we're going to take care of it and improve it."

They also plan to expand the funeral home business by opening Magnolia Funeral Home South in the dormant building that formerly housed Hight Funeral Home at the Corinth cemetery, which sits on 12.5 acres.

They bought the cemeteries from Glenn Coleman and Tom Fowlkes, owners of Coleman Funeral Home in Oxford, who took ownership in 2016. The Corinth cemetery had spent the previous four years in receivership after the Secretary of State's Office investigated the depletion of pre-need trust accounts by former owner Wayne Hight. Oaklawn in Booneville was also involved in that case.

All of the records pertaining to plots at were obtained from the prior owners. The new owners welcome any residents who want to verify plot information to contact them at Magnolia Funeral Home.

"We hope we've got good records, but we'd love for people to call us and see if our paperwork matches up with their paperwork," said Jimmy Calvary.

In its heyday, the former Forrest Memorial Park had more than 100 burials a year, he said. It had about 75 last year.

"After all of the turmoil, people were not buying plots," said Shelia Calvary. "We want to show them we are going to take care of it and regain the trust."

A sign with the new name is now up at the entrance on Highway 72, and they are planning to offer space for plots with a different style of monument.

"Our plan is to open up one of those new sections for upright monuments," he said. "We just cleared it off and planted grass on it, so maybe by next spring we'll be up and going in that area."

The former Hight Funeral Home building, which has now been standing unused for a number of years, will need some work before it opens as the new Magnolia Funeral Home South.

They are also considering designating a section for upright monuments at Oaklawn off of Highway 4 in Booneville.

"We're trying to keep it groomed and looking good," said Jimmy Calvary.

Cypress Gardens Cemetery in Iuka is located off Battleground Drive on Memorial Lane.

Residents of the Blackland community in Prentiss County, the Calvarys also maintain a home in Corinth. He is retired from Prentiss County Farm Bureau, and she is retired from Magnolia Regional Health Center, where she was chief nursing officer. Jimmy Calvary launched Magnolia Funeral Home in 1993 with partners Charlie Browning, Leroy Brown, Jim Johnson and James Cornelius.

With ownership of the cemetery, they will now be selling monuments and offering a service to keep flowers at graves.

"We're learning a lot about the cemetery business," he said.