A book is missing and someone in Centralia has a chance to earn $400 for its return.
In 2016, Charles Steward, a Louisiana resident who served on the Bethany Cemetery Board of directors loaned the cemetery’s plat book to a man from Centralia, said Tracy Brookshier.
Brookshier is cemetery association’s secretary.
Stewart, she said in an email to the Centralia Fireside Guard cannot remember the name of the man to whom he loaned the plat book.
Plat books are extremely important to cemeteries, they list the location of the occupied graves.
When one considers the challenges recently faced by the City of Centralia Cemetery, the book’s importance becomes clearer.
“We are sure that whomever is was that borrowed it was/is unaware of its priceless value to our organization,” Brookshier wrote in a message to the Fireside Guard. “After many attempts to try and find whom has possession of it we have decided that a cash reward is due.”
She reiterated the book was lent by Steward in early 2016. “The plat-book was lent out in Centralia, MO in 2016 from previous board member Charles Stewart. If you may know of the whereabouts please contact us today.”
Broorhier discussed with the Fireside Guard why the book was important to the Bethany Cemetery Association.
“A plat book is a book containing all the records pertaining to any and all sales of plots within the cemetery, reports from meetings, budget spreadsheets and anything else involved with the cemetery,” she said.
Many would consider the book an historical artifact in its own right.
It was started in when the board began in 1984.
“Currently that board has four members: “Myself, Patty Dortch, Lesli and John Stross. Our responsibilities include keeping record of donations, ensuring the mower gets paid for lawn care services, find ways to get things fixed within the cemetery and trying to organize ways to raise funds for the cemetery,” Brookshier said.
It is a small cemetery with a small endowment so that $400 reward is a big sacrifice.
“We make our money purely off donations, since we are not a registered not-for-profit, we are not able to apply for grants,” she said. “The donations made each year barely cover mowing expenses. We cannot sell plots for income until the play book is located so we can ensure we are not selling plots that are already sold.”
In the years since 2016, the need to recover the book has become more urgent.
“We have over 35 ‘missing people’ that we are aware of after I spent two days trying to re-create some of the plat book. Since we have no idea where these people are buried is another reason we are uncomfortable with selling lots to bring in money.”
The award was originally $300, she said, but as the search continued and the book stayed missing, a family member of someone interred at Bethany Cemetery donated $100 to increase the reward, but money is in short supply.
“We have tombstones that need fixed, fencing repaired and would love to lay a gravel road within the cemetery for ease of visitors. This $400 could go a long way with some of these items. We wanted to start putting flags and flowers on veteran graves but are not able to for lack of funds- and we thought it was time to try and use funds to get our plat book back.”
Brookshier can be reached at 314-971-5886 or TBrookshier@pikecountyhealth.org.
“The plat book is priceless and we desperately need it back so we can keep up with our cemetery and honor our loved ones laid to rest there.”