SANFORD — The new Southern Maine Memorial Veterans Cemetery was built for those who served in the nation’s military, but it is in many ways a monument to Marie Clancy, too.

Clancy, 85, sat front and center as the 89-acre cemetery was dedicated Tuesday, joining two other cemeteries in Augusta and another one in Caribou as final resting places for the state’s veterans and immediate family members. Outside of Maine, there are 127 state military cemeteries, which are financed primarily by federal grants.

Raymond Parent, Sanford’s fire chief, a Navy veteran and a major backer of the cemetery, said Clancy’s persistence over the course of a decade was responsible for the cemetery’s creation.

“She got people to want to be on the committees, she got ahold of the governor, she got ahold of legislators,” Parent said after the dedication ceremony for the cemetery, which will begin holding military burials later this year. About 500 people attended the event.

As a surprise Tuesday, Parent announced that the main road into the cemetery will be named Clancy Way to honor Marie Clancy for her leadership.

Parent said that when Sanford’s Riverside Cemetery 10 years ago offered 50 acres for a military cemetery – the rest of the property was donated by the town – federal money for state military cemeteries was fairly plentiful. But as the southern Maine effort swung into full gear, competition for the grants was more intense, and it took Clancy’s dedication to keep it on track.

Clancy, a former Sanford resident, said she was driven by a desire to help veterans, like her husband, John Patrick Clancy, who served in the Army in World War II and Korea and was buried in a nearby cemetery in 1984.

“He can look over and see the (veterans’) cemetery,” she said.

The cemetery features a covered shelter, where services can be held. About 25 acres of the land can be used for burials, Parent said. The rest of the property is either hills or ledge, but that undeveloped space will lend an air of beauty, tranquility and solemnity to the entire site, he said.

Veterans attending the dedication weren’t eagerly anticipating using the cemetery but said they are happier knowing that when their time comes, they will be buried close to home.

“I’m 76 now, so I might be dirt-napping here anytime,” said George Brogan.

The Sanford man served in the military for 22 years – six in the Navy and then 16 in the Air Force after giving up hope of finding his sea legs, he said. As a Vietnam-era veteran, he said, it’s gratifying to see public support for efforts such as the cemetery after serving during a time when those in the military were viewed as unwelcome reminders of an unpopular war.

“This is wonderful,” said Roger Doiron, also of Sanford, who served in the military from 1960 to 1964 and has already submitted paperwork for plots for himself and his wife at the new cemetery. “It’s great they’re doing something for the Maine veterans in the southern part of Maine.”

The cemetery, when fully built out, will be able to hold the remains of 20,000 veterans and family members.

The first military funeral, Parent said, will occur in a few weeks for Roger Landry of Sanford, who died in 2007. Parent said Landry, a former legislator, was helpful in cutting through any state red tape that threatened to hold up the cemetery. Landry was cremated, Parent said, and his family will have his ashes buried at the cemetery.

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be reached at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]