INVESTIGATES: Historically Black cemetery facing complaints of lost gravesites, lack of funding and mismanagement

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — St. Nicholas Cemetery off Beach Boulevard is one of the oldest and largest cemeteries associated with historic African American communities.

It’s run by a community board. Not only are entire families buried here but also military veterans.

Bobbie Simpo visits St. Nicholas Cemetery often.

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It’s here where her late husband is buried, along with most of his family.

“This is his mother Helen, his sister, brother, his cousin and his aunts,” said Simpo.

After he died in 1994, she knew that whenever it was her turn, she wanted to be buried next to him.

“He was the world to me,” she said.

Simpo showed Action News Jax the receipt showing she paid $1,400 for a family plot of four.

Everything was squared away until she noticed her family plot would be situated near an area that goes slightly downhill, so she arranged to have them moved.

“I was supposed to have the first four graves in the new spot,” said Simpo.

But as 2020 rolled around, Simpo watched as more people started getting buried in the new section she was promised.

“What’s your biggest fear?” asked Lorena Inclán. “That I’m going to die and leave this burden on my children,” Simpo said.

The cemetery’s Vice President, Debra Davis, admitted they’re overwhelmed.

Davis said they’re trying to get organized mapping out the entire cemetery and creating a website but one of the big problems they’re facing is that some of the gravesites are unmarked so it’s hard to know who’s buried there.

In a lengthy statement Davis said in part “When I took part of the organization it was due to family members being buried in the wrong plot and that’s how I got involved.” Davis went went on to say, “we need help.”

See full statement below

Davis assured Action News Jax that Simpo will have her plots.

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While we were out at the cemetery, Simpo found one of the graves she was assigned.

“I know the others are nearby and I’m in the right spot now,” said Simpo.

At this point Simpo won’t be buried next to her late husband but she says she’ll settle with at least being in the same cemetery.