Preserving cemeteries

Friday, June 16, 2017

Did you honor your parents, grandparents, and soldiers from your town by attending one of the Memorial Day Services held in our New England cemeteries?

Keeping those historic burial grounds beautiful requires workmanship. Here in Colrain, three men have each worked at our cemeteries for over 35 years. The Gammell and Kimberly families have been caretakers for three generations. Ken Shearer is the other long-term sexton.

Brick & Chandler Hill Cemeteries: Ken Shearer has spent over 35 years mowing the Chandler Hill Cemetery and the Brick Cemetery. He also prepares for burials, as does Keith Gammell, the final honor given to families with ties to Colrain.

Christian Hill Cemetery: About 1940, James Kimberly began volunteering his time at C.H.C., later his son Rodney became sexton and his wife Beverly worked there too. For the past 35 years, their son, Shawn Kimberly has worked at that hillside cemetery. Shawn began helping his parents when he was a child and now his wife Karena helps too. The Kimberly Family has spent over 75 years overseeing the work at Christian Hill Cemetery.

West Branch Cemetery: Marshall Looman Sr. was the sexton for about 20 years. Then Steve Grechel, next Ben Eastman. Since then, three generations in Keith Gammell’s family have held that position. K.J. (Keith Gammell Jr.) began working with his father, Keith Sr., when he was a boy and has worked there for 35 years. His wife, Rachel, and their son, Dylan, also help to keep that cemetery beautiful. Those three families maintain four cemeteries, but work needs to be done to preserve the stones.

Colrain was settled in the 1730s. Settlers were buried here, but their families left for new frontiers. Local towns pay for upkeep, but I believe preservation of these Historic New England genealogical landscapes now requires donations to specific Memorial Funds. Cemeteries in Colrain and all over Franklin County need donations dedicated to repairing tombstones, removing trees, and rebuilding rock walls.

Muriel E. Russell