Mike, who does not want his last name published, holds an interesting gravestone he found mostly buried in a cemetery in Carthage with details of the woman’s life written on the back. He plans to build a display case in the cemetery for it.
The photo was taken in Auburn in the parking lot of Tin Tin Buffet as he was in town and wanted to take the photo there so I did not add that to the caption but wanted to let the copydesk know this…..Russ
CARTHAGE — The Potter-Storer Cemetery in Carthage long ago lost its fence to time. Gravestones that dated back to the 1826 town founders had toppled with it.
Last week, the town hired two men to rebuild the fence while 64-year-old Mike, overseeing their work, doctored stones and brought the old cemetery back to life, as it were.
Featured in the Sun Journal two weeks ago for driving around Western Maine and repairing hundreds of gravestones for free, as the mood strikes, Mike said he’s been overwhelmed by the reception from strangers and from new towns such as Carthage’s willingness to work with him.
He’s very clear about not doing it for the recognition, and doesn’t want his last name in the paper, but he’s been touched. Not that he comes right out and says it.
“I’m actually humbled, dear,” Mike said Wednesday. “People come up, they shake my freakin’ hand, I don’t even know who they are, and say, ‘It’s very nice what you’re doing.’ And I don’t even know what the hell to say because it isn’t nice. It’s just something I go about. I never thought I’d be this world famous.”
Mike, a retiree who lives in the Rumford area, has been driving around repairing stones for years. The towns of Rumford, Mexico and Peru have supported his work and offered to help fund repair supplies.
He found out about the Porter-Storer Cemetery from a man at American Legion Post 24 in Rumford last month.
“He said, ‘There’s one over in Carthage and it’s all messed up and nobody takes care of it,'” Mike said. “The town calls me right back, ‘Anything you’d do, I’d appreciate it.’ They said, ‘Go get everything you need. If we send you someone, will you supervise them?’
“The kids actually worked and never got out their cellphones, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “That’s something you don’t see today.”
Carthage First Selectman Steve Brown said it was nice to have someone like Mike take an interest.
“The old stones, over time, they deteriorate, and many of them are thin and they break,” he said. “I think (the new fence) will be nice. We’re going to wait until next year to paint it.”
Mike has repaired or straightened about 140 stones in 2017 and has declared himself done for the year, “except if there’s one I can’t resist.”
On Tuesday, he stopped by an old Dixfield cemetery and noticed stones there with survey stakes driven in the ground in an attempt to keep them upright.
“I went down to town hall (to ask about fixing them and was told), ‘Thank you very much, anything we can do to help you. Honestly, we just don’t have the men and the time,'” Mike said. “I probably won’t get to it this year, but it’s right on my spring list.”
For all the warmth, there is still one town with a cemetery he’d love to fix that still won’t let him in.
“Andover, God love ’em, if they ever need a hand, just give me a call, I’d be happy to help them,” Mike said.
He wanted to correct an earlier assessment that no one else was out in the woods in the bugs and the muck helping him because no one cared. That was too harsh. He’s learned over the past two weeks that more likely, they didn’t realize he was out there.
“There is a lot of freakin’ good people out there, and I would like to thank them all,” Mike said. “There is a lot of good people and you don’t realize that until you become famous.”