Easton will receive a $5,000 state grant to help restore, maintain and preserve the historic value of four town-owned cemeteries.

“Graveyards are historical artifacts, and for many of the people buried in them, they are the last tangible evidence of their existence,” said Frank Pagliaro, a member of the town’s Cemetery Committee that successfully applied for the state grant. “We tend to think of the cemeteries and the stones in them as permanent, but like any old thing they need constant attention.”

Pagliaro said the money is needed to properly maintain the cemeteries, including clearing weeds, briars, and bushes; mowing the ground’s lawns; repairing the ground’s fences and walls and straightening, fixing and refreshing headstones.

Easton was among 41 other cities and towns to receive the grant money under the state’s Neglected Cemetery Account Grant Program administered by the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management.

The Cemetery Committee’s charge is to “restore, maintain and preserve the historic value” of the four town-owned graveyards in order to ensure that even after a cemeteries that have not seen burials for decade will not be neglected. The committee is responsible for the Gilbertown, Center Street, Lyon, and Den (or Wheeler/Baldwin) cemeteries. The grant money will not be used for cemeteries in Easton that are not town-owned, are active burial grounds or are run by private cemetery associations.

Gilbertown Cemetery tour. – Photo by Rick Falco

“Right now, despite a dozen years of excellent work by the Cemetery Committee and our volunteers, there are headstones we are in jeopardy of losing forever to the ravages of time, in particular several sandstone monuments that are delaminating, flaking, or spalling due to water penetration and freezing and thawing,” said Pagliaro. “Repairing them is very expensive, but without immediate attention, they will crumble away.”

First Selectman David Bindelglass said bringing state funding back to town is a high priority, especially for cemetery preservation, farms and other local projects.

“Easton citizens pay lots of money to the state in income tax, they expect to receive a portion of it back for the town’s needs,” Bindelglass said. “My philosophy is to take every opportunity we can to get some of that money back for anything that we need it for.”

Nanette DeWester, chair of the Cemetery Committee, was pleased to learn that the town will be receiving these grant funds to allow the committee to continue its important work preserving the historical value of these cemeteries.

“Easton’s cemeteries are an important part of the town’s history,” DeWester said. “The committee not only manages these sites but also creates opportunities to foster community engagement to appreciate these unique grounds that honor the lives of previous generations.” 

The Cemetery Committee hosts educational tours, collaborates with town organizations to share resources, offers volunteer workdays to learn hands-on preservation techniques and co-hosts the annual “Lady in White 5K” in October that celebrates Easton’s famous ghost and raises much-needed funding.

Lyon Cemetery tour. – Photo by Kaitlin Katzenback

State Rep. Anne Hughes, who represents Easton, Redding and Weston, believes Easton cemeteries will benefit from this preservation. Redding also received a state grant.

“I want to congratulate the Easton Cemetery Committee and Redding Historic Cemetery Committee for their due diligence in stewardship of our historic cemeteries and working with the Governor’s team to secure funding to help protect and restore these resting grounds,” Hughes said.

Pagliaro said the need for proper cemetery maintenance can sometimes be overlooked and, as a consequence, part of the committee’s role is to advocate for the funds and resources necessary to defray the cost of preserving and maintaining these historic sites.

“Town budgets can be tight, with most money going to services people depend on like education, police, fire, public works, etc.,” said Pagliaro. “The Easton Cemetery Committee serves a ‘clientele’ that can’t speak for itself and for whom most people don’t give much thought. Understandably we receive less funding than we need each year. This grant will help us care for the cemeteries in our charge.”

For more information about the Easton Cemetery Committee including how to get more involved, visit the town website.

The community is also encouraged to make donations. Every dollar helps to ensure that the cemeteries are properly maintained now and for future generations. To donate, contact Christine Calvert, Finance Director, Town of Easton, at ccalvert@eastonct.gov.

Editor’s note: See also Bruce Nelson’s recent History Corner column “Curating the Dead.”

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