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Perspectives on Our Past

As we approach the 150th Anniversary of the founding of Sigma Nu, it is fitting that we remember and honor our three Founders.  To that end, the fraternity and three of our alums recently upgraded the gravesites of two of our Founders.  Since the sites are special places for Sigma Nus to visit, it seems fitting that we ensure they always look their best.

Last October, we officially dedicated a new monument to Founder Greenfield Quarles.  It was erected by the fraternity in the Maple Hill Cemetery in Helena, Arkansas, the town where he lived most of his life.

Starting last December, one of our alums stepped forward to make major improvements to Founder James Frank Hopkins gravesite in Mabelvale, Arkansas. He generously supervised the work and paid for the cost of the improvements.

Greenfield Quarles

On a misty afternoon last October, a group gathered under a large tent in Maple Hill Cemetery to dedicate the new monument for Greenfield Quarles. The fraternity erected a monument to replace the existing small tombstone put up in the 1920s.

Among the participants were some of Greenfield’s descendants, including his great-great-grandson, Rob Browne; an initiate of our Beta Theta Chapter at Auburn. We also were joined by the candidate class and several alumni from our Epsilon Xi (Mississippi) chapter. Additional alumni from other chapters took part in the proceedings including Jason Campbell (Northwestern State), whose monument firm cut and delivered the stone at their cost, a significant contribution to the project. Regent Lee Perrett (Auburn) was in charge of the program and speakers.

Although not in attendance, Carl Berry (Idaho) donated the beautiful large bronze Sigma Nu coat of arms affixed to the new monument.

After the dedication ceremony, the fraternity held a reception at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Helena. Greenfield Quarles attended this church and was instrumental in raising money to rebuild it after a fire destroyed it in 1914. 

The new monument is a beautiful and fitting tribute to Greenfield Quarles, Alpha #2.

James Frank Hopkins

James Frank Hopkins lived most of his life in Mabelvale, Arkansas. Hopkins’ family burials, including our Founder, took place outside of the small town, in the Martin Cemetery. Unfortunately, over the years, the small association that owns the cemetery has not had the resources to maintain it properly. 

Hopkins' gravesite before renovations.

Originally, an iron fence enclosed the graves in the Hopkins’ family plot. A large portion of that fence had disappeared. What at the time were small bushes at the corners of the family plot had overgrown their original intent and blocked several of the gravestones. Dead limbs blocked views, and the grass needed reseeding.

I visited the cemetery last October, shortly after the Quarles monument dedication. I knew that something significant should be done before our 150th Anniversary to upgrade the family plot. Little did I know that one of our alumni brothers who lives nearby had the very same thought. 

Gary L. Smith is an initiate of our University of Arkansas, Little Rock chapter. During his undergraduate years, he served as Commander of the chapter. His passion for Sigma Nu continued after his graduation, and he served as a District Commander and as one of the fundraisers for the previous University of Arkansas chapter house opened in the early 1990s. Edward Durell Stone, the world-famous Sigma Nu architect, designed this chapter house.

Gary retired from Bank of America in 2001 and purchased a company not far from the Martin Cemetery. After driving by the cemetery (without stopping) for many years, he finally decided to visit the grave of Founder Hopkins. He immediately knew that something needed doing to renovate the family plot. 

He contacted a friend, who did landscape work, and a neighbor who owned a fence company. He talked with his neighbor, Harold Joyner, about replacing the fence and to his surprise, and that of his neighbor, discovered that Joyner had a son who was an initiate of Sigma Nu. His son, Jonathan Joyner, is an initiate of our Vanderbilt Chapter. 

Once they learned of the Sigma Nu connection, Harold Joyner offered to provide the fencing at a significant discount in honor of his Sigma Nu son. Gary’s landscape friend provided expertise on trimming the bushes, removing the dead limbs, and resodding the family plot. 

As can be seen from the before and after photos included with this column, the gravesite of Alpha #1 looks great again.

Hopkins' gravesite after renovations.

Thank you, brother Smith, for stepping up to the task and getting the job done; a wonderful accomplishment as we near our 150th year.

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9 North Lewis Street, P.O. Box 1869, Lexington, Virginia 24450
Phone: (540) 463-1869 | Fax: (540) 463-1669 | Email: headquarters@sigmanu.org

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