How often are there cries that we need funds for this and money to do that? A small band of volunteers are working with the group Spirits Alive to preserve history in the municipally owned Eastern Cemetery at the top of Munjoy Hill.

They’ve received special training through the Association for Gravestone Studies to restore the leaning and broken cemetery stones of our forefathers and foremothers. In only a few years, they’ve repaired or reset over 300 stones in Eastern Cemetery. I drove from Boston on Aug. 20 to check them out.

I was so impressed. I witnessed six volunteers take amazing care in cleaning, carefully chiseling away any prior adhesives and setting an old stone in a new, custom-created concrete base.

Later, the top of the stone was to be adhered and braced until it has set. They even watered the trees. With the help of one of the volunteers, I found an ancestor, Eleanor Heald Cummings (1775-1824).

By contrast, I drove across town to Western Cemetery, where the stones are broken, lying face down and neglected. I was unable to find three ancestors there. A mother and daughter departing Western Cemetery shortly after me had a similar experience.

The city of Portland is very fortunate to have the volunteers at Eastern Cemetery. I was struck by how well they worked together. About half were retired, while another sported multicolored locks; they were led by a very efficient group leader, skilled at supervising and doing the delicate hands-on work.

There are even walking tours through Oct. 16 at Eastern Cemetery, where you can go and learn about the people buried there. Visitors can also leave a donation to help further this important work. Check their website to learn more at

Linda L. Heald