Strong winds send trees crashing in Calvary Cemetery

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

Andy Telli


hain saws were buzzing at Calvary Cemetery on Monday, May 4, as part of cleanup efforts after straight-line winds of 70 to 80 miles per hour the night before upturned trees and sent limbs crashing to the ground.

About two dozen trees were damaged in the storm, and a second storm on Monday, May 4, toppled another tree and broke off several limbs, said Deacon Mike Wilkins, executive director of Calvary Cemetery.

“It will take a couple of weeks to clean up all the fallen limbs and trees” from the latest storm, Deacon Wilkins said. But the cemetery will be open to visitors before then, he said.

“I’ve got all the roads open but two right now. We’ve got them passable,” Deacon Wilkins said Tuesday, May 5. “It will take the professional crews to come in to do the really, really big stuff. We just don’t have the equipment to deal with that.”

Among the trees knocked over by the wind was a tulip poplar that was more than 200 years old. “It would have been a fair-sized tree when the cemetery opened” nearly 152 years ago, Deacon Wilkins said.

The trunk of the tree was 13-and-one-half feet in circumference, and after the tree fell to the ground, the root ball stood almost 15 feet tall along one of the drives winding through the cemetery.

“It was still a healthy tree,” Deacon Wilkins said, and the largest tree that was lost in the storm.

“What has saved trees like that for so long is it’s on the east side of the cemetery,” Deacon Wilkins said. As the wind travels from west to east, the other trees in the cemetery and the hills provide some protection for the trees on the east side, he explained.

Deacon Wilkins called Father Bede Price, pastor of the Church of the Assumption in Nashville, to offer the timber from some of the fallen trees for the reconstruction and repairs at Assumption, which sustained heavy damage in the March 3 tornado.

“Poplar is an excellent material,” said Deacon Wilkins, who was a professional woodworker before he was ordained as a permanent deacon. The wood from the fallen trees might be used for structural timbers, he said.

“Our particular plan was since we have an unusual project and theirs is an unusual situation, we thought we would try to salvage two of the trees,” Deacon Wilkins said.

“We would just have them available, because it could be six or eight months before they even know if they could use something like that,” he added. “That one will have to play out over time.

If the church can use the timber, Deacon Wilkins said, it would be another connection between the cemetery and Assumption.

When Assumption was built in 1859 to serve the German-speaking Catholic community in Nashville, the Buddeke family was one of the charter members of the parish. When the church was threatened with being sold at auction to pay off construction debts, the Buddeke and Wessel families stepped up to pay off the debt and save the church for the community.

The Buddekes lived across the street from Assumption, and their home, the Buddeke House, is now part of the Assumption campus.

Later, the Buddekes sold 45 acres of their farm on Lebanon Road for $15,000 to the Diocese of Nashville to create Calvary Cemetery.

If contractors can use the timber from what was once the Buddeke Farm, it would almost be another example of the Buddeke family helping Assumption Church.

“There’s a lot of symmetry there for sure,” Deacon Wilkins said.

To see a video of the storm damage at Calvary Cemetery, visit the Diocese of Nashville’s YouTube channel at

Subscribe to our email list

Keep your finger on the pulse of Catholic life in Middle Tennessee by subscribing to the
weekday E-Register here.

* indicates required