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Landscapers step up to mow Shepherd Memorial Park for free

Sam Byrnside and Aaron Owensby pose at Binion's Roadhouse, where they took their crew for lunch on  Friday, the day after the mowed the overgrown Shepherd Memorial Park cemetery. Sam Byrnside and Aaron Owensby pose at Binion's Roadhouse, where they took their crew for lunch on Friday, the day after the mowed the overgrown Shepherd Memorial Park cemetery.

Henderson County residents who have family members buried at Shepherd Memorial Park had become increasingly distressed at the condition of the cemetery.

Children and grandchildren who visited the graveyard on Mothers Day to pay respects were greeted by knee-high weeds and grass that nearly obscured headstones. Word spread on social media and WLOS-TV reported on the aggrieved families who wondered who is taking care of the memorial park. (State regulators last November suspended the license of Thos. Shepherd & Son Funeral Service, the cemetery owner, as a result of a complaint that still awaits a final resolution.)

Enter Sam Byrnside and Aaron Owensby, owners of L&S Landscaping and A to Z Landscaping respectively. Both Henderson County natives, Byrnside and Owensy dropped a day of paid work and brought a crew of six to mow and weedwhack every blade of grass.

"Well, Henderson County gave us so much support by calling us with landscaping needs," Byrnside said. "As small business owners, we wanted to show our support to our community. We felt the need to step up (and show) that we're here for everyone."

Byrnside, 31, said as far as he knows he has no family members at the cemetery; most of his are at a family plot on Old Union Church Road in the Edneyville community.

"There was a lot" of land to cover, he said. "We had three mowers up and running and we had three weedeaters at the same time."

"We've been gone about 30 minutes," he said at 6:30 Thursday evening.

A few people who saw the crew working stopped by to thank the workers and the gratitude from families was spreading as fast as the grievances had.

"We thank them for all the kind words," Byrnside said. "It really means a lot to us."

Owensby, a 23-year-old East Henderson High School graduate, had a similar explanation for the act of paying back.

"We were just try to give back to the community that's given us everything we had," he said. "We felt like it was right to give back and try to do some good in a world that's so negative right now." Among the challenges is the gas shortage. Owensby said he was lucky to get gas early Thursday. "We burnt through 10 gallons."

"l felt like it was right to give back to the community," he said. "I felt like I gain more not really by losing money but helping people out more than anything." 

Byrnside and Owensby say they don't if they can continue to mow the cemetery but they're trying to figure out how they might.

"We're actually sitting down and eating some lunch tomorrow to see what we can come with," Owensby said. "It would be hard for us to let go of a day every week to do it. We're going to sit down tomorrow and try to get a game plan."

Like Byrnside, Owensby he's not aware of any kin at Shepherd Memorial Park. His family goes back generations in Henderson County.

"Actually my great-grandpa was the one that built the stairs at Chimney Rock," he said.

With so many yard services in the county, maybe each could take a week?

"That's definitely a very good idea if we could all come together and do that," he said.