Volunteers improve grave conditions at historic cemetery

Warwick Beacon ·

The final resting place of a family that helped found Warwick got a little help from a community that deeply cares about the city’s history.

Historical Cemetery 107, where many members of the Holden family were laid to rest, was in rough shape. Some of the headstones were buried and a few were even broken. When a constituent brought it to City Councilman Ed Ladouceur’s attention, he went down to survey the area himself. After seeing the conditions, he got in touch with Pegee Malcolm, Chair of the Warwick Commission on Historical Cemeteries (Malcolm also is the Chair of the Rhode Island Advisory Commission on Historical Cemeteries). But by the time Ladouceur reached Malcom, the commission was already working on repairs.

Ladouceur’s next visit to the cemetery was much different.

“I couldn’t get over the fabulous job they did. It was like they did surgery on the headstones,” Ladouceur said.

Indeed, the mid-1800s era cemetery is looking significantly better. The head and foot stones (the graves have head and foot stones that serve as the final “bed” of the deceased) all stand above the ground. Stones that were in pieces have been fitted back together. The ground has a few heavy indentations where the stones were once buried, but otherwise, the cemetery that’s tucked behind arborvitae on Fostmere Court looks the way it should.

Malcolm said Cindy Corkum, Lisa DeMay of the Commission and Ron Barnes of the Pawtuxet Rangers and Bob – she didn’t provide his last name - spent about 30 hours repairing Historical 107. All of the commission’s work is done by volunteers who put their own money toward preservation efforts. The commission gets $400 per year from the city, which Malcolm said is spent rapidly.

Situations like that of Historical 107 aren’t uncommon.

Malcolm said the commission repaired and restored six cemeteries over the summer and that natural deterioration happens over time. However, historical cemeteries are sometimes havens for vandalism. A portion of Julia Holden’s headstone is missing, and Malcolm believes it was stolen.

Vandalizing cemeteries is punishable by law and can carry an up to $1,000 fine, she said. But harming a portion of a family’s legacy or undoing the hard work of volunteers is perhaps even more costly.

“You’re destroying history,” said Barnes.

Malcolm and Barnes requested that headstones or any other materials taken from any of Warwick’s cemeteries be returned to Warwick City Hall Annex.

In the meantime, the commission will keep up its restoration and preservation efforts.

“We do it because we love it, and because it’s right to do,” Malcolm said. “It’s history and art.”

RESTORED: Ron Barnes of the Pawtuxet Rangers stands with Pegee Malcolm in the newly repaired Historical Cemetery 107. (Warwick Beacon photos)

KEEPING THE HISTORY: Councilman Ed Ladouceur visits Historical Cemetery 107 after its repairs.