Local cemetery giving free plots to veterans

Published 8:20 am Friday, April 23, 2010

The new operations director of Southampton Memorial Park is offering free cemetery plots to veterans.

Phillip Helmbright is also working with the Veterans of Foreign Wars to develop a veterans’ garden at the 20-acre cemetery on Pretlow Road.

Helmbright doesn’t feel that charging a veteran the $1,895 fee for a burial plot is the right thing to do.

“Veterans can go to any veterans cemetery at no cost, but have to go quite a distance,” he said. “This area has a lot of veterans.”

Ed Mattucci, post commander for VFW 4411 in Franklin, appreciates Helmbright’s offer.

“If someone is going to offer you free ice cream, you’re gonna take it,” Mattucci said. “It’s a pretty piece of land out there. I think most of the veterans appreciate the gesture.”

The federal government operates cemeteries for veterans, who are buried at no cost. A spouse can be buried for $300.

Mattucci said the closest such cemetery to Franklin is the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk.

New to the area from Baltimore, Helmbright said he believes burying veterans closer to home will make it easier on families wishing to visit a gravesite.

Southampton Memorial Park is privately owned and was developed in the early 1960s. About 2,000 people are buried there and space has been developed for 8,000 more burial plots.

As for developing a veterans’ garden at Southampton Memorial Park, Mattucci said the VFW is interested.

“We’ll probably donate a flag pole and help with putting it up,” he said.