Suffolk, Virginia: Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation Community Meeting

(l-r) Fred Green; Wilbur Holland, Jr., Treasurer, Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation; Reginald H. Dirtion, President, Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation; Princess J. Benn-Coker, Worthy Matron, Nansemond Chapter 31, Order of the Eastern Star PHA; Rev. Oulaniece Saunders, Vice President, Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation; Nadia K. Orton, Secretary/Historian, Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation; Frances McNair, Suffolk Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Chapter 5; and Mr. Robert Holland.

Richmond, Virginia: The Shelton Family, Evergreen Cemetery

The gravestones of the Q. T. Shelton, Sr. Family. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, December 18, 2018. All rights reserved

Researching the family of Q. T. Shelton, Sr., Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia. Q. T. Shelton, whose gravestone is on the right, is the 11,000th interment in our Evergreen Cemetery database. His family story will be featured in my upcoming book on the cemetery.

Alumna takes care of sacred spaces – Duke Magazine

Thanks, Janine!

Nadia Orton ’98 made a pledge to document her family lineage. It’s turned into a mission to preserve disappearing and discarded history

Nadia Orton ’98 steps carefully around concrete vaults and sunken spots where pine caskets have collapsed inside century- old graves, her knee-high camo boots laced tight.

“I’ve had snakes and stray dogs come out of holes like that,” Orton says, nodding at a grave split in two by a fallen tree branch. Her family insists on the snake boots, a walking stick, a companion.

They tell her, “We know you love history, but you’re not supposed to be part of it yet.”

So the boots are always in the car. So are the thin purple gardening gloves she pulls on to protect her hands from her own impatience to sweep aside pine needles and poison ivy and run a finger over the engravings there, thinned by weather and time.

It is cool out, but still Orton has had to stay home and rest up for five days in order to muster the energy for this tour of Oak Lawn, an unmarked black cemetery in Suffolk, Virginia. The lupus that dogged her at Duke is dragging on her still, after kidney failure and dialysis, and finally a transplant, but it was also her lupus that led her on this quest to preserve black and African-American gravesites. Continue reading