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May 7, 2014

Bringing dignity to the dead

Haverhill Boy Scout cleans, unearths gravestones


Spitalere said cataloging graves often involves finding gravestones that are hidden beneath soil, cleaning them to reveal names and comparing their locations to a map of the cemetery.

“We’re having it all redone with a new database Nicholas is creating,” Spitalere said. “He’s going to catalog every stone he can find and redo the map to ensure it is accurate.

“His efforts have been tremendous,” Spitalere said about recent cemetery cleanups coordinated by Dobrosielski. “He’s taken on a massive project to help us and to help others locate their families.”

Dobrosielski, a senior at Central Catholic High School, said members of his troop have helped with cleanups, which have involved removing debris that accumulated over a period of years. It includes yard waste, overgrowth, trash, small trees and brush, primarily from the front section of Hilldale Cemetery.

“We have a map of the cemetery and we’ll try to find all the stones for each plot,” Dobrosielski said. “We plan to use little skewers and stick them into the ground to find the gravestones.

“We’re focusing on the front three rows along Hilldale Avenue,” he said. “That’s the area that’s most visible to the public and the easiest part to access because much of the cemetery is overgrown. We’re trying to start at the front and work our way in.”

Every name he finds will be entered into a laptop computer. He estimated hundreds of gravestones are obscured and must be uncovered.

“A lot of the stones are for veterans, so it will help identify them so on Veterans Day they can put flags on them,” he said.

Spitalere said his board of directors has also received help cleaning the cemetery from students at Ocasio’s True Martial Arts academy, as well as other volunteers.

Dobrosielski will hold his next cleanup of the cemetery on May 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Volunteers are invited to participate. Donations toward the cost of lumber, hardware and cement are welcomed.

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