Gavin Holbrook stands Friday afternoon in front of the Olde French Cemetery in Turner, where he helped clean headstones this past summer. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

TURNER — Gavin Holbrook sought out something a little different for his service project to become an Eagle Scout.

When the 17-year-old Leavitt Area High School student heard about the small, overgrown cemetery on Wilson Hill Road in Turner, he became intrigued. The fencing was rotting, trees were encroaching, and the sign marking the entrance to the Olde French Cemetery was illegible.

He said most of the headstones are either 18th or 19th century and in need of cleaning. He later learned his great-great-great grandparents are buried there, making the project more personal.

Holbrook, a Boy Scout, embarked on the project as part of his effort to gain the Eagle Scout designation. Conducting a fairly large service project in your community is required, as is a series of merit badges. Holbrook is closing in on becoming an Eagle Scout, needing only two more merit badges.

He said after he found out he had ancestors buried there, he thought its restoration would also be great for other people in the community who have ancestors there.

“I thought it was the best fit for what I wanted to do,” he said about the service project. “A lot of Eagle Scout projects consist of trail work, but I wanted to do something a little different, and more authentic to myself I guess.”

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Holbrook said he had seen the cemetery before, but when the idea came up to clean it up, he had to Google its name because he could not read the sign.

Before beginning the project, Holbrook contacted the Turner town manager to hash out the details of what work was most needed. The cemetery is owned by the town.

Town Manager Kurt Schaub said that Holbrook “did an outstanding job planning, fundraising, and carrying out the recent restoration” of the cemetery.

“He and his crew replaced the picket fence, restored the sign, carefully cleaned the very old headstones, and removed a lot of brush,” he said. “It’s now a site the town can take pride in, once again. We can’t thank him enough for his efforts and wish him well in the final stages of his Eagle Scout journey.”

About 100 hours of volunteer time was put into the project, Holbrook said. Local businesses, including Spugnardi Signs, Northland True Value and American Legion Post 111, donated items, and Holbrook and some fellow troop members did additional fundraising for the fencing.

Holbrook and his team trimmed tree branches that had become overgrown, and cleared leaves this fall, hoping to open up the cemetery to its original space.

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“None if this would have been possible without the donations and all of the volunteers that helped me with this project,” he said. “But a special thanks to my parents for being there to support me with all of the difficulties of the project. Also for Trevor Varney and Dale Bryant for guiding me through this project.”

When asked if he plans to pursue other community-minded projects, Holbrook said he will continue to offer help, whether to someone else’s project or his own. He also plans to help younger scouts in his troop with their projects.

Now a high school junior, Holbrook said he plans to attend a four-year college to study mechanical engineering.

Know someone with a deep well of unlimited public spirit? Someone who gives of his or her time to make their community a better place? Nominate him or her for Kudos. Send the person’s name and where his or her good work is done to reporter Andrew Rice at [email protected] We will do the rest.


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