Harrison County

Why were RVs allowed to park in front of Biloxi cemetery during Cruisin’? Owner speaks out

A photo of RVs parked at the front of Southern Memorial Park cemetery during Cruisin’ The Coast was posted on Facebook and created a digital stir in Biloxi.

The photo, shot from above at an adjacent condo tower, shows five motor homes, a trailer and several cars on the grass area along U.S. 90 in Biloxi. A section of the site near the mausoleum was obscured by trees.

“Irreverent and insensitive,” one person who commented on Facebook called it while others said it was a disgrace. The post has over 250 comments.

Linda Klein Andrews, who moved from Biloxi several years ago, saw the photos and her friends’ posts on social media. Her family members, who owned Kleins’ bakery in downtown Biloxi, are buried in the back of the cemetery.

“It’s very upsetting,” she said. “Even the fact that they would rent out spaces.”

Jacques and Cara Pucheu bought the cemetery in early October 2018 and she said they roped off the cemetery to keep people out during Cruisin’ The Coast car show last year.

“And people came on the property anyway,” she said. “It was completely trashed.” Pucheu said they repaired the tire ruts and cleaned away the debris.

“We just didn’t want that to happen again,” said Pucheu, who is a Gulfport councilwoman.

They couldn’t have a service patrolling the property for nine days of Cruisin’, she said. So this year she said they decided to allow RVs on the site as a security measure to keep people who shouldn’t be there out.

They took the ID and credit card information from the people who rented spots at the south end of the property, she said, with the understanding they would pick up before they left. When a crew went in Monday, she said they found it clean.

The only problem they had was the on the area near U.S. 90 that she said is owned by the City of Biloxi and Mississippi Department of Transportation for right-of-way. The area to the west of the mausoleum is owned by someone else, she said.

The posts on Facebook posts said vehicles were parking on graves.

The only parking on graves was a drunk guy who pulled in there, Pucheu said.

The people who parked their cars and got stuck in the sand were parked illegally, she said.

Pucheu read the posts on social media and took phone calls and complaints Monday.

“All we were trying to do was have control of who was in there,” she said.

She asked “where is the outrage” when residents of Biloxi dump their tires, refrigerators and dryers at the back of the property, and where was the outrage when damage from Hurricane Katrina was never repaired for years after the storm.

They had an issue with homeless people in the area when they purchased the cemetery, she said. They spent money on upgrades and in April pulled the Last Supper display out of the ditch where it sat for 13 years since Hurricane Katrina and reinstalled it.

“The cemetery looks better than it has probably the last 10 or 15 years,” she said.

Mary Perez is the business and casino reporter for the Sun Herald and also writes about Biloxi, jobs and the new restaurants and development coming to the Coast. She is a fourth-generation journalist.