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Tittsworth gives up presidency of Smyrna Cemetery
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James Tittsworth looks out at Smyrna Cemetery and reminisces on its history. Tittsworth is stepping down after 40 years of volunteering as president of Smyrna Cemetery Trustees. - photo by Lacy Garrison

James Tittsworth is stepping down after 40 years as president of Smyrna Cemetery Trustees, the group of volunteers who oversee the cemetery. 

Tittsworth, 80, took over the position from his father-in-law in the 1980s after his death, saying it is important to protect and preserve the cemetery. Smyrna Cemetery is located across from Smyrna Church of Christ on Myers Cove Road. With around 30 acres, the cemetery is the final resting place for 1,500 people.

 “My family is buried there including my mother, dad, mother-in-law and father-in-law and now my wife,” explained Tittsworth. “Last year was a rough year for me.”

Tittsworth’s wife, Dorothy, passed away last March while he was recovering from back surgery at Cookeville Regional Medical Center. They would have been married 61 years in November. 

According to Tittsworth, Smyrna Cemetery has changed and developed over the years. Since he’s been involved with the group, its built a pavilion on the corner of the cemetery, added air conditioning, paved the cemetery roads and accumulated a comfortable savings.

“We’re got a nice little nest egg with around $58,000 in a trust account, but it’s an emergency fund,” said Tittsworth. “It’s been a community effort and it’s amazing the response we get from the public coming to eat with us with our benefit supper and Decoration Day.”

Smyrna Cemetery’s annual Decoration Day is held the last Saturday in July. This event attracts around 500 members of the community. 

When asked about memories at the cemetery, Tittsworth recounted how everyone used to bring their own yard rake and push mowers to help with the upkeep of the cemetery during Decoration Days past. Before the pavilion was built, volunteers would stand under the shade of a tree to grill burgers in order to stay out of the hot sun.

Replacing Tittsworth is Randy England, who described Tittsworth as the “backbone” of Smyrna Cemetery.

“He has made sure everything is done right and that money is spent the right way,” said England. “When the pavilion was built, not one dime was borrowed and we have paved nearly every road in the cemetery with no money borrowed. James is an icon.”

Added former treasurer Leonard Clemons, “We’ve gone through good and bad times with the cemetery together and I’ve known James for years. He’s done a good job with it.”

Although he’s having to step back due to health reasons, Tittsworth still hopes to help the trustees keep everything running smoothly and the cemetery looking good.