Life A F T E R D E A T H
Reviving the 165-year-old
By Emory Rakestraw | Photography by Allison Potter
IIT FEELS LIKE A PLACE that couldn’t possibly exist in a coastal landscape.
Sunlight sifts through the oaks, hitting the ground in kaleidoscopic patterns.
Hills meander and trees intertwine. Blueberry, the resident peacock, bellows
in the distance. Quiet graves, from unmarked headstones to elaborate family
burial plots, dot the space. Sections like the live oak, Hebrew cemetery, and a
mound of land for yellow fever victims have their own unique stature among
an overflow of greenery and space. People like Catherine Solomon and Sylvia
Stoudenmire have been coming here for decades.
“Who is that out there? Messing around in my lot, that’s what they’re doing,”
“Well, you wanna get out and tell them to get off?” Stoudenmire replies.
“They’re parked in my parking space.”
“Your name ain’t on that.”
“Yes, it is.”
By lot, Solomon means her pre-purchased burial plot at the 165-year-old
Oakdale Cemetery. By parking space — well, there aren’t any reserved spots
here for the living, but if there were, Solomon and Stoudenmire would deserve
Both women were introduced to the “treasure of Wilmington” by their
grandmothers. Usually on a Sunday, they’d come to the burial ground at the
very end of 15th Street.
“My grandmother lived on 6th Street; it was a production to come to the
cemetery,” Solomon says. “A lot of the old graves would have ivy. When you
were with Grannie, you had to come out and trim the ivy and cut it back. One
of my sisters that would come out here with us, a snake came out of the ivy
once when she was trimming. We got rid of the ivy, needless to say,” she laughs.
She can’t recall a certain moment or draw that instilled her love of Oakdale.
“I always got interested in it,” she says. “I’d bring mother out and we just sort
of made a production out of it. Hardly a week passes that I don’t come out.”
“A week? You mean a day,” Stoudenmire says with a laugh.
Catherine Solomon, left, and Sylvia Stoudenmire walk under a canopy of crepe
myrtles at Oakdale Cemetery in section Y near the entrance. Several areas of the
cemetery are laid out in a circular design, including section D. A tree towers over
the monuments in section C.