Fall Newsletter . Volume V
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We are grateful to our donors. They make progress possible.
Gene Anderson (1952-2020 ). He worked to restore our historic work buildings during 2019-20.
Fred Eaton ( 1932-2021 ). He served as Treasurer of the SCA for many years.
The Billings Mausoleum has been neglected for over a century. The current state of disrepair and instability threatens the future of this beloved landmark. It's time plan for restoration.
In 2020, the State Office of Historic Preservation provided grant funds for an engineering survey to evaluate the current condition of this iconic structure and to provide an approach for restoration including cost estimates. The written report was delivered to us in November and can be viewed here. The cost to stabilize and restore the exterior of the structure will cost at least $1,000,000 The survey didn't include the stained glass, now boarded over, or any interior restoration.
The West Grounds comprises several acres located across N. Main Street from the main cemetery grounds and was once part of the same historic farm property. The Cemetery Association purchased the land in 2001 when it was zoned for cemetery use. In 2020, the Cemetery Association signed a contract with Reed-Hilderbrand, an award winning landscape architectural firm, to plan for gradual preparation of the West Grounds for plot sales and burial.
The plans will take advantage of the beautiful natural setting extends from N. Main Street to the cove and through creative designs make few changes to it. The goal is to retain the natural beauty of the landscape. The community will be part of the planning.
Monument Cleaning continued during the summer of 2020. Bob Suppicich along with helpers from the Keena family erected scaffolding to clean the tallest obelisks and Atwood Colonnade. These beautiful, now restored, monuments are testament to the grandeur of our grounds and the wealth of the community during the late 19th and early 20th century.
In addition, many headstones were righted. Some of the work was performed by contractors, Czaja brothers and some by volunteer efforts by Bob Suppicich with help from Elliott Shaw.
In August of this year, Gene Anderson with the help of his brother, John, went to work restoring the second of our work buildings - the "Hearse House." The smaller of our two work buildings was probably the oldest structure on the grounds dating from the mid-18th century. It is a post and beam structure made up re-used parts from earlier structures. Sadly, this is one of
IGene Anderson's last projects. Gene was a consummate craftsman who respected and understood antique structures and worked to preserve them. In the 1990's he participated with lowering the stained glass dome in the Billings Mausoleum and encasing it in a protective wood cage.
This area behind the work sheds was filled and leveled during the summer with fill donated by the Town of Stonington arranged with the cooperation of Danielle Cheesebrough and Tim Keena. This project greatly improves the appearance of the area and will provide much needed new space for burials.
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Bob Suppicich is captured on his last day of volunteer work cleaning headstones. He is chatting with Nicole Huard who was here visiting for the marker installation of her friend, Pati Hill. Sibby Lynch arranged for the stone.
Pati Hill lived in Stonington during two decades beginning in the mid-1950's. These were creative years for this artist who was a novelist, poet and photocopy artist best known for her observational style of prose and her work with the IBM photocopier. While she was not the first artist to experiment with the copier, her work is distinguished by its focus on objects. Pati was also a fashion model and ran an antiques store in Mystic. In the 1990's she moved to France and made her permanent home there. After Pati's death in 2014, her friend Nicole Huard decided that Stonington was the most appropriate location for Pati's final resting place. Her stone was laid this fall.
SHED RESTORATION . This summer John and Gene Anderson undertook restoration of the Victorian Shed. In October a gate was installed to link that shed with the Hearse House. The rear of the shed and the fence will be painted next spring. Many years of debris has been cleared from the inside and a parking area has been graded and seeded.
STONES DAMAGED by a late 2018 windstorm toppled tree have been repaired by Buzzi Memorials and paid for by our insurance. The two stones in the photo are like new. An obelisk moved on its base was adjusted and Fred Burdick repaired a shattered stone that had been struck by lightening.
Honoring Veterans . Local resident, Frederick Pampel, celebrates his spring birthday by placing cemetery baskets at the graves of veterans of the War of 1812. To the left is the stone of William Barrett Powers, a British midshipmen who lost his life during the Battle of
Stonington 1814. To the right is William Potter's stone. Potter organized a regiment and many veterans of Potter's regiment are buried nearby.
Veterans' Graves Project . The Board worked with interns from Stonington High School, our American Legion Post and other interested community members to mark the graves of veteran burials and to list those graves in our digital data base. We ask your help with compiling our list. Please contact us to add a name and service information.
2016 ~ 2018
Survey of Cemetery Plantings . A survey and map of cemetery plantings in the history section of the cemetery has been completed and will be published soon. The comprehensive list of trees with scientific name, location, and condition will assist us with planning for the removal of dead trees and limbs and to plan for future plantings to refresh our historic grounds. We welcome your feedback.
SPRING BULBS . The Stonington Garden Club began planting bulbs along the North Main Street wall of the cemetery in the fall of 2015. The continued in 2016 and again this past fall when they moved to the west side of North Main Street. The result of their generosity has been beautification of our entrance area and of this scenic road.
TREE REMOVAL . This winter several overgrown plantings were removed from the entrance to the cemetery with the assistance from a donation from a generous donor. The newly cleaned monuments are clearly visible now.
STONE CLEANING . Beginning Fall 2015, and continuing during clement weather through Fall 2017, Bob Suppicich has been cleaning monuments in the cemetery. He began with older marble monuments working mostly on the older stones first. Eventually he completed work on the marble headstones and during the summer of 2016 began to clean granite. To date he has cleaned and, in the process, has preserved several
hundred stones. The result has transformed the appearance of our grounds - once neglected and now glowing.
New Street Signs . New street signs purchased with a grant from the Charles B Allyn Foundation have been installed. This restoration project in addition to contributing to the historic appearance of the grounds will make navigating the cemetery and plot location easier.
SURVEY OF BURIALS . During the summers of 2016 and 2017 a two-woman volunteer team, Joanna Case and Judy Hicks photographed every headstone in our cemetery, recorded all the epitaphs, and compiled a digital inventory of all known burials. The list has been posted to Find a Grave and the digital data base is available here. Judy and Joanna initiated their
cemetery inventory project several years ago. Earlier inventories of the area existed from a 1930's survey - the Hale Collection - but theirs is the first effort to use modern digital tools to update and publish local burial information.