As I’ve said before, one of the joys of doing this work is reuniting with old friends. One of them is Todd Guenzi, whose photographic talents you’ve seen before in this blog. While we’ve kept in touch via Facebook, I hadn’t seen him in probably over 12 years. He and I were both in the singles’ group at Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Buckhead.

So last year when Todd mentioned that a friend of his had a family cemetery in Talladega, Ala., I was immediately curious. I don’t take many road trips because being a mom means staying close to home for the little guy. So it took a lot of juggling schedules over the months to finally set a date in April. Fortunately, our calendars, my son’s spring break and the weather aligned in perfect order.

Before this, I’d only driven past Talladega (known for its famous racetrack) on my way to Birmingham. But Nancy’s family has lived in the area for decades and while some of them are now scattered throughout the Southeast, it’s the place they call home. Visiting Talladega’s town square is like taking a step back in time. The Chamber of Commerce, where we stopped briefly, is housed in an old train station. Some of the original tile is still there, too.

Nancy wanted to stop at the Talladega Chamber of Commerce to find a book. It's housed in an old train station.

Nancy wanted to stop at the Talladega Chamber of Commerce, which is housed in a beautifully maintained old train station.

Some years ago, Nancy and her siblings concluded that they did not want to see their beloved family cemetery slowly fade away. They also wanted to honor the memory of their parents, James Anthony and Kate Thomas Hubbard, in a special way. Nancy’s brother, Langdon, is a very successful businessman. So with him at the helm, the Hubbards hired an architect to draw up plans to restore and revive it.

The Hubbard Family Cemetery is located on the edge of Langdon’s property, which is quite vast. The view from the back of the cemetery is amazing.

Nancy's brother owns a lot of land in Talladega. The family cemetery is on the edge of it, near his home.

Nancy’s brother owns a lot of land in Talladega. The family cemetery is on the edge of it, close to his home.

However, it’s the front of the cemetery that catches your eye first. The bell tower is stunning.

The bell tower in front of the cemetery is easily seen from the road.

The bell tower in front of the cemetery is easily seen from the road. There’s also room to park your car.

The bell is usually only rung when someone is being buried. But Nancy gave me permission to ring it, which I did.

The bell is usually rung only when someone is being buried. But Nancy gave me permission to ring it, which I did. I have to admit, the effort literally knocked me off my feet!

Although Nancy grew up in Talladega, she lived in Michigan for many years. She’s outlived her two husbands. Like me, she had only one son and it was much later in life than most mothers. I think for that reason, among many, I feel a kinship to her. She also treasures her family history, and works with her brothers and sisters to preserve it.

Nancy treasures her family's cemetery and is very pleased with the result of the work done to preserve it.

Nancy treasures her family’s cemetery and is very pleased with the result of the work done to preserve it.

When Langdon went about making changes to the cemetery, he made arrangements for a few family members buried at another cemetery down the road to be moved to this one. He also had the property surveyed to determine where some of the unmarked graves were. As it turned out, there were more than they first imagined. The ones that they found are marked like this.

As is the case in many old family cemeteries, there are people buried within whose identities are lost to time.

As is the case in many old family cemeteries, there are people buried within whose identities are lost to time.

One of the first graves I saw was that of Netta Mae Hubbard. She died at the age of 21, a young wife to W.T. Roberts and a devoted mother.

The oak leaf motif on top of Netta Mae Hubbard's grave is lovely. Oak leaves symbolize strength, endurance, eternity, honor, liberty, hospitality, faith and virtue.

The oak leaf motif on top of Netta Mae Hubbard’s grave is lovely. Oak leaves symbolize strength, endurance, eternity, hospitality, faith and virtue.

On the day we visited, a work crew was laying down a flagstone walkway to encircle the graves. Nancy told us she thought Langdon was planning on surprising the family with it when they came over for Easter. It was certainly a beautiful day to be outside under the bright blue sky.

Todd (on the left) had been to Hubbard Family Cemetery once before but rain kept them from staying very long on that visit.

Todd (on the left) had visited the cemetery once before with Nancy, but rain kept them from staying very long.

The graves in the Hubbard Family Cemetery range from the 1700s to only a few years ago. You can see Langdon's home in the background.

The graves in the Hubbard Family Cemetery range from the 1800s to only a few years ago. You can see Langdon’s home in the background.

One of the oldest graves in the cemetery belongs to John Hubbard, born in 1797. According to Ancestry.com, he was born in Elbert County, Ga., but moved to Alabama later.

John Hubbard's grave is one of the oldest in the cemetery and has been repaired several times over the years.

John Hubbard’s grave is one of the oldest in the cemetery and has been repaired several times over the years.

After exploring the cemetery, we went over to the Hubbard’s “Home Place” that is nearby. On holidays like Christmas and Easter, the Hubbard siblings and their families gather to celebrate. A tiny house, it still stirs a lot of memories for Nancy. She remembers hard work but happy times with her family, growing up on the farm. Looking over the land, she can tell you where every barn and outbuilding used to be.

On the drive back to Newnan, where Nancy now lives, I thought about what a wonderful history her family has and how blessed she is that they’ve preserved it so well. It will live on after they’ve gone and future generations will not only keep the cemetery in the beautiful condition it is in now, but expand it for burials to come.

I also thought about how good friends like Todd can be akin to family. That keeping those ties intact is just as important. I hope as my journey continues, I can revive old friendships and make new ones, like the one I’ve formed with Nancy.

Because when we’re surrounded by family and friends, we truly do find a place to call home.

Toddandme

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