Dare commissioners authorize cemetery move

Published 8:41 pm Monday, August 7, 2023

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At the request of the Dare County Airport Authority directors, Dare’s Board of Commissioners authorized moving of at least seven graves from the airport facility on Roanoke Island.

The action took place at the July 17, 2023, meeting of the commissioners.

The graveyard has four graves from the Wescott family and three unknown or unmarked.

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The graveyard, which is 50 feet by 80 feet, is in the middle of an area with heavy airplane traffic.

The situation was created 80 years ago when the military simply paved around the cemetery. The surrounding paved area is now used as an aircraft ramp or parking area.

The authority’s Board of Directors thinks that the cemetery’s current location poses a safety issue for airport operations and the flying public.

The graves would be relocated to the Roanoke Island Memorial Gardens Cemetery, which is owned by the Airport Authority.

Commissioner Wally Overman, who is a member of the Airport Authority, said the intent of the authority is to reinter the graves in the same way as laid out at the current location.

The commissioners’ resolution authorizing the removal of the graves from the Dare County Regional Airport is the second of many steps in the process for moving the graves. The first was the adoption of a resolution by the authority’s board of directors to make the request to the Dare County commissioners, reported Airport Authority attorney Johnny Hallow with Hornthal, Riley, Ellis & Maland.

Genealogical research as to those buried will be conducted and families informed. Ground penetrating radar will be used within the existing cemetery and 20 feet outside the cemetery to identify possible remains. A 30-day written notice will be given to family members and notice will be published. A licensed funeral director would be hired for disinterment and reinterment. The steps are spelled out in North Carolina’s General Statutes.

Stacy Ambrose, the airport director, also attended the presentation to the commissioners.