The cemetery advisory committee is spearheading efforts to clean up and restore gravestones in Champlain Cemetery. New board member Bill Glinka’s journey to the forefront of this repair project began with a single gravestone that caught his eye.
Rufus Thompson, a Civil War veteran, died in 1863. While his body is buried at Gettysburg, a memorial stone for Thompson sits near the entrance to the Champlain Cemetery in Colchester. Glinka told the Sun he noticed the stone showed signs of weather, time, and decay, and wondered what the steps were to replacing or repairing a stone.
“Maybe I should step up to the plate and do something,” Glinka recalled thinking. He discussed different possibilities with Town Clerk Julie Graeter but found that the process for replacement was lengthy and expensive. Instead, Glinka found luck with the Vermont Old Cemetery Association (VOCA).
The Vermont-based nonprofit is made up of about 400 members and works across the state to encourage restoration and preservation of abandoned or aging cemeteries in the state. VOCA helped Glinka see repairs through on Champlain Cemetery–“for free,” he noted.
A group of volunteers began repairs on July 27 and finished last weekend, digging up numerous stones in various stages of disrepair. Some stones tilted forward in danger of cracking; some were barely visible underneath under a giant lilac bush that had grown over them. “And those stones are heavy,” Glinka said.
The team also completed some cleaning of the lettering and re-erection of the stones.
Glinka expressed thanks to VOCA and the cemetery advisory committee which he joined about four months ago. “I’m a rookie, never done this before,” he said. With Champlain Cemetery now under his belt, he hopes to continue supporting the committee’s restoration efforts in other cemeteries around town.