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September 17, 2012

Evergreen Cemetery revived

Volunteers restore Keeseville cemetery to its former glory

KEESEVILLE — Once in such bad shape the state thought it was abandoned, Evergreen Cemetery in Keeseville has been fully restored by volunteers.

“We turned it right around,” cemetery Board of Trustees President June Venette said.

“There was a lot of vandalism. A lot of headstones were laying there. It needed attention.”

Mrs. Venette and her husband, Ed, along with volunteer groundskeeper Joseph Steffy, gave it that attention.

SHABBY SHAPE

Some of the damage they repaired dated as far back as the Ice Storm of 1998, Mrs. Venette said.

“The large hedge around the cemetery needed attention. Many of the headstones were falling or leaning dangerously because of age.”

She said they have to file reports with the State Division of Cemeteries and found that the agency had grants available to help them.

“They had a grant we could get to have the stones repaired. We’re very thankful for that. We’ve had almost 200 stones repaired.”

The Division of Cemeteries had not heard from Evergreen for so long it had been listed as abandoned, she said.

‘LABOR OF LOVE’

Her husband and Steffy are now the cemetery’s caretakers, Mrs. Venette said.

“They do an extraordinary job. They are retired, so they do this in their spare time. With all the work they do, if they were paid, it would probably work out to 50 cents an hour. It’s a labor of love.”

The cemetery is about 20 acres, plus 5 acres for expansion that Keeseville businessman George Moore donated, Mrs. Venette said.

“There are two sides to the cemetery and a ravine in between. It’s a large cemetery.”

DONATIONS HELP

Recently someone donated a pressure washer to clean the headstones, some of which date to 1849, when the cemetery was established.

“We had headstones buried in the banks, so we didn’t even know they were there. Several Civil War soldiers are buried in our cemetery.”

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