OXFORD - Oxford residents and area officials gathered this weekend to celebrate a local garden and a visit from the person it honors.
City officials held a ceremony to show a plaque mounted on a granite stone to Ellen Schattschneider, a former professor at Emory University who worked with Oxford College to help clean up the Northeast section of the Oxford Historical Cemetery in 2000 and 2001.
"In this historic cemetery are buried the many African-American forefathers and foremothers who in slavery and freedom helped to build and develop the community of Oxford, Ga., including nearby Emory College," Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry said. "Among those at rest here are farmers, ministers, laborers and educators."
In 2002, the city named the garden Ellen's Garden, in honor of Schattschneider, and declared Sept. 29, 2002, as Ellen Schattschneider Day.
The stone was erected a few days prior to Schattschneider's arrival; she now lives in Massachusetts, where she is an associate professor of anthropology and women's and gender studies at Brandeis University.
"We take this opportunity to dedicate this garden so that we and our children's children will always remember those who lived, died and are now buried here," said Oxford resident J.P. Godfrey, who helped organize the event. "We dedicate this garden to build relationships for God's Kingdom, even as we endeavor to transform this world."
Schattschneider, her students and other Oxford professors and students worked daily to clean up the once deteriorated portion of the cemetery by clearing brush, uncovering and cleaning headstones, and eventually planting a garden and a cedar tree; it also now houses a gazebo.
"We wanted to bring back (the space) in a nurturing manner and say that someone is here and taking care of this place and does care," Schattschneider said. "I'm deeply honored."
She said whenever she is in the area, she will visit the garden, even though others now help tend the garden, which includes a crape myrtle tree, verbena, petunias, impatiens, begonias and other flowers.
"You have to care for it ... in order for the next generation to come," said Oxford College Chaplain Judy Shema during the dedication. "It's the same for us and our relationships. ... We're black and white living in this community; we've got to cross those lines and come together."
Covington Mayor Kim Carter, several city of Oxford council members, Oxford College Dean Steve Bowen and other Oxford residents also were in attendance at the celebration.
Michelle Floyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.