LEWISTON — Clem Bechard discovered last week that his one-man fundraising campaign was more successful than he had ever imagined.

Bechard was disappointed earlier this year when he visited Little Round Top at Gettysburg and saw the condition of the 20th Maine monument, which celebrates the heroic stand made by Joshua Chamberlain and the rest of his unit at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Bechard was saddened to discover that several names of the casualties suffered by the 20th Maine and listed on the monument were no longer legible.

The history buff from Lewiston decided to take action.

After discovering that it was against park policy to replace a monument and learning that the park had virtually no money in its budget to restore them, the Lewiston resident started a GoFundMe page in July to raise money to repair the granite marker that had deteriorated in the Gettysburg woods since its dedication in the 1880s.

Nearly 50 people were moved by Bechard’s plea and contributed a total of $2,090, which was $500 more than he had hoped to raise.

Last week, Bechard returned to Gettysburg to see how the money he raised and donated was used by the Gettysburg Foundation and the National Park Service. He was stunned when David Cooper, the chief development officer for the nonprofit Gettysburg Foundation, took him to the site to see the newly restored maker.

He could now read the missing names of the casualties at Gettysburg suffered by the 20th Maine.

“I am happy to say it came out better than I expected,” Bechard said. “The names show up really well now. I could not be any more satisfied with the cleaning it got.”

The park’s Monument Preservation Branch used a special micro-abrasive wash to clean the stone with tiny bits of pulverized glass — similar to glass beads — at low pressure so as not to damage or cut into the stone.

That method is a step up from the usual power washing each monument receives every three years.

Contributing to the poor condition of the monument was its location among the trees of Little Round Top, where the monuments tend to be dirtier, according to Lucas Flickinger, the park’s Monument Preservation Branch supervisor.

The 20th Maine marker is one of 1,300-plus monuments placed throughout the Gettysburg battlefield. In addition to maintaining the grounds, Flickinger’s crew preserves 400 cannons and their cast-iron carriages, in addition to fencing and all historic structures.

Bechard’s love of Gettysburg and the 20th Maine may have him starting another fundraising campaign.

According to Cooper, the National Parks Service is expecting to soon announce a major restoration overhaul of Little Round Top, one of the most visited sites on the battlefield with more than 1.1 million visitors every year.

The five-year project is expected to take five years and cost $8 million in a public-private partnership. The plan would balance access with improved protection of the site, providing more parking and better trails.

“Little Round Top is our highest preservation project,” Cooper said in July. “It is really a smart plan and will preserve the areas for the next 50 to 100 years.”

Bechard confirmed that he discussed another GoFundMe effort — which he hopes to start soon — with Cooper during his visit last week.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.