Fixing Veterans’ Graves in Haverhill


By: Don Jarvis – Sept.2020

Haverhill, Massachusetts, is considered the final resting place for approximately 8,000 veterans. This is believed to go as far back as the American Revolutionary War, and as current as of the Global War on Terrorism. Some of these veterans can be easier to locate than others. Some veterans may be marked with a grave marker but are unable to be read.

Sitting in the back, upon a hill, at the Hilldale Cemetery is a section commonly referred to as Veterans Hill. This section is one of the most straightforward areas to locate due to the white flagpole, proudly flying the American Flag. The flagpole is in the middle of the “Civil War Memorial,” which, besides the flagpole, and honors over 300 Civil War veterans interred at the Hilldale Cemetery. Most of these grave markers have sunken over time, becoming extremely difficult to read. This memorial has also become the center point for the annual Wreaths Across America ceremony that takes place every December. Wreaths Across America is a nationwide event that takes place at the same time, same day, and thousands of volunteers place a wreath on the graves of our veterans.

With the Civil War Memorial in its current condition, we felt this would be an excellent opportunity to start a project in Haverhill. We plan to restore the dignity and honor that our veterans have earned. Spearheading a similar project in Newbury, and successfully caring for hundreds of veterans’ graves in the last five years. I knew that this could easily be cleaned up and looking good by this year when the Wreaths Across America ceremony happens.

With over 100 gallons of water, a plastic bin filled with soft bristle brushes, and a couple of bottles of D/2 Biological Solution. The Rotary Club of Haverhill and members of VFW Lorraine Post 29 and AMVets 147 we were able to start this project on Saturday, August 22, and cleaned and reset seven grave markers. Following all methods and protocols that Arlington National Cemetery uses, we will bring the same honor and dignity to our Veterans.

A document published by the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training – National Park Service in 2011 called “Best Practice Recommendations for Cleaning Government Issued Headstones.” Outlined in the document are several recommendations that cleaning should be with the least-abrasive method possible.

This document recommends the best cleaner being D/2 Biological Solution, which was tested in a study conducted under a President Executive Order 13287, Preserve America FY 2011.

“It is extremely important that people know the proper way to care for the graves of our veterans,” states Donald Jarvis. Adding “what could start as someone wanting to do something good could end up being something that could cause permanent damage. So, we must do everything as safely as possible not just for us, but also for the veteran and their family.” ◊