VDOT, funeral home complete grave relocation work near interchange project

Markers after their placement on relocated graves in a small cemetery near the I-64/I-264 Interchange Improvements Project on Kempsville Road in Norfolk. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of VDOT)
Markers after their placement on relocated graves in a small cemetery near the I-64/I-264 Interchange Improvements Project on Kempsville Road in Norfolk. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of VDOT)

NORFOLK — A funeral home working for the Virginia Department of Transportation has relocated 11 graves in a small cemetery near construction of the I-64/I-264 Interchange Improvements Project.

The work by funeral home R.W. Baker & Company marked the culmination of VDOT’s mission to protect the memory of the deceased and their part in Hampton Roads’ cultural history, VDOT officials said.

Anthropological staff late last year confirmed the presence of several unmarked graves where an access road will be built for inspection of the interchange project. VDOT used ground-penetrating radar in 2017 and further examined the soil in December 2018 to identify the likely location of each burial site, officials said.

The funeral home relocated the graves in late April and this week completed its work by placing a new granite headstone at each of the previously unmarked graves that it moved.

While 11 graves required relocation, the entire cemetery includes nearly two dozen marked graves, four with headstones prior to VDOT’s involvement. The oldest stone dates to the 1930s, and some of the other graves appeared older still. No living relatives of the people buried in the cemetery have been found, officials said.

A marker after its placement on relocated graves in a small cemetery near the I-64/I-264 Interchange Improvements Project on Kempsville Road in Norfolk. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of VDOT)
A marker after its placement on relocated graves in a small cemetery near the I-64/I-264 Interchange Improvements Project on Kempsville Road in Norfolk. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of VDOT)

VDOT and the funeral home found space within the original cemetery to accommodate all of the relocated graves. The cemetery is on the east side of Kempsville Road, just south of the I-264 overpass. It is not affiliated with any nearby churches.

A Norfolk Circuit Court order was issued to the department for the relocation.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.