EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 23, 2013

Preserving their military honor

Complaint about dad's grave plaque leads to uncovering of markers

By Douglas Moser
dmoser@eagletribune.com

---- — METHUEN — Diane Amato couldn’t see her father’s military plaque when she visited his grave at Elmwood Cemetery.

Her father, Roy Holland, was a World War II veteran who served for 30 years as a Naval reservist.

He died in 1998, about 10 years after his wife, Josephine, and was buried right beside her at the cemetery on North Lowell Street. Like other veterans, he received a bronze plaque to be placed in front of his grave stone, marking his military service.

But over time, the plaque, set in a small concrete pad, sunk into the ground, like many others around the cemetery.

“It was all covered,’’ Amato said. “You couldn’t even see his name because it had sunk down and the grass covered it.’’

She and her daughter spoke with a city councilor and the mayor’s office, and cemetery workers exposed the plaque, using a special tool to fill dirt in under it.

Amato was pleased, but her call spurred the city to bring in some help to raise the rest of the veterans plaques that have sunk in around the cemetery over the years.

“I think it’s great, honestly,” Amato said. “These veterans all put their lives on the line for us.”

It’s all the more meaningful for the family because Amato’s daughter has served in the Army for six years and is currently on active duty.

There are dozens of plaques scattered around 28 sections of the cemetery. Ray DiFiore, the city’s director of public works, said his department created the tool to lift sunken plaques, but it takes two to three people to work.

City Councilor Tom Ciulla contacted Sheriff Frank Cousins’ office to get help from the work release program at the Correctional Alternative Center, also known as The Farm.

DiFiore said three to four workers have worked on plaques nearly every day during the last two weeks, getting through seven or eight sections of the cemetery.

“We’re getting something accomplished we otherwise wouldn’t have the manpower to do,” DiFiore said.

Mayor Stephen Zanni said a visitor wouldn’t know some of the plaques were there at all because they are sunken and overgrown.

The work likely will take until next year to complete. DiFiore said the only cost to the city is lunch for the inmate workers. The Sheriff’s Office provides transportation and supervision.

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