Seeking peace instead of controversy at Mechanic Falls cemetery

MECHANIC FALLS — For the first 12 years after Lloyd Boyd Sr. died, his widow, Helen, visited his grave every day.

Maple Grove Cemetery issues arise
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Some plot owners at Maple Grove Cemetery in Mechanic Falls say their perpetual care is falling short. They claim plots are not well-tended. Petitioners say items placed at graves have disappeared.

Maple Grove Cemetery issues arise
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Some plot owners at Maple Grove Cemetery in Mechanic Falls say their perpetual care is falling short. They claim plots are not well-tended. Petitioners say items placed at graves have disappeared.

Maple Grove Cemetery issues arise
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Some plot owners at Maple Grove Cemetery in Mechanic Falls say their perpetual care is falling short. They claim plots are well-tended. Petitioners say items placed at graves have disappeared.

In good weather, she'd stroll up Maple Grove Cemetery's boulevard entrance to his grave site. On winter's dark days, when the cemetery roads were not plowed, she'd snowshoe in.

“She wore out three or four pairs of snowshoes going in there,” said her son, Daniel.

But she rarely goes anymore. Her ankles bother her and the solace that she once found has gone.

“It's supposed to be a peaceful resting place,” said Daniel Boyd of Mechanic Falls. “It's not peaceful anymore, I guess.”

People are complaining that the cemetery — where graves date back to the Revolutionary War — has become too preoccupied with rules, too lax with the upkeep and too unresponsive to complaints.

Last month, widow Brenda Manchester collected 118 signatures from people asking that the cemetery to do a better job of mowing and cleaning stones, particularly for veterans. She sent the letter and the signatures to the Maple Grove Cemetery Association.

“They've never replied,” Manchester said. “We don't know who's on the board. There was an annual report, but it stopped coming.”

Manchester tried taking her complaint to Town Manager John Hawley, who told her the town could not get involved.

Noella Hemond — who helps run the cemetery and sits on its board — believes there is no problem.

She called Manchester “a troublemaker.”

Hemond, the treasurer of the association for the past decade, says the cemetery isn't perfect, but she and her family have spent thousands of dollars to help pave the roads in the cemetery and build a fence. Stones are being cleaned as fast as the cemetery's income allows.

“We have a lot of people who give us compliments,” said Hemond, who lives in Minot. “I have lots more good comments than bad, and you can't always please everybody.”

The family's work on the cemetery began more than a decade ago. Hemond's husband, Roland, served as president of the association. He died in 2007 — and is buried in a prominent part of the cemetery — but the family has continued to help fund improvements, Mrs. Hemond said.

The association has erected signs banning bird feeders and a list of other items.

“Novelty items, tires, tubs, swans, bird houses, glass containers, nails, spikes, wires etc are not allowed on the grave lot,” according to a sign at the entrance to the cemetery. “If an item is deemed inappropriate, the lot owner will be notified and have 72 hours to remove items or they will be removed by the maintenance staff and destroyed.”

Lena Paradis of East Poland said she received no notice when a birdhouse was removed from her husband Lucien's grave.

“I paid a lot of money for it and it just disappeared,” she said.

Daniel Boyd said he had a birdhouse on his dad's grave for more than a decade before it was ripped down. Only when he complained that protected bluebirds were nesting there — and removal was illegal — was the birdhouse returned, he said.

Every plot of land was purchased from the nonprofit association with the understanding that plots would receive perpetual care, Manchester said.

A daily visitor to the cemetery, she said her husband's plot was mowed only three times this summer.

To Manchester, though, the biggest problem is that too many veterans' graves do not receive the special care they deserve. Several are covered with moss and lichen.

"When you can't read a veteran's name, that's not perpetual care,” Manchester said.

She has tried complaining to cemetery board President Carroll Stevens but received no answer. The Sun Journal was also unsuccessful in its attempts to reach Stevens.

Hemond, who has served as treasurer since about 2000, said any complaints overlook the progress made over the past decade.

And though the public cannot attend the association's meetings, the board is working, she said.

“We have our own meetings,” Hemond said. “The cemetery is better taken care of than it ever was before.”

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

The public can't attend the meetings

It states right in the article that the public can NOT attend the meetings. The cemetery association is also no longer making the reports available. Which leads me to ask, what are they trying to hide??

Mark Elliott's picture

maybe.....

Maybe having the public attend those meetings, and take part, might help the committee prioritize the use of it's limited funds?? Maybe the committee should ask for the public's help through volunteers? Maybe the community should volunteer without being asked to do so????

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