CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — This Halloween, we’re talking about old cemeteries—not as any kind of connection to the spirit world, but as places that need help. NEWS10’s Anya Tucker looked at how you can volunteer and play a role in maintaining these historic gems.
You’ve likely seen them during a drive, those old cemeteries which are overgrown and in disrepair. They might seem spooky, but all they really need is some love and more friends like
Chris White, aka The Albany Grave Digger. His passion is preserving headstones as well as the history behind them.
“A cemetery can be considered an outdoor museum,” White said. NEWS10 first interviewed him in 2019 at the old evangelical Protestant Church Cemetery on Krumkill Road in Albany. That was before he, his dad, and a small army of volunteers restored it.
Protestant Church Cemetery is now beautifully mowed, and the once-blackened stone monuments stand gleaming bright. “This is a feel-good moment for me,” said White’s dad, Mike.
Cemeteries tend to fall into disrepair when descendants move away or die. Sometimes, there’s just no money for upkeep. But all of us can help save these historic gems, according to David Fleming, the Legislative Director for the New York State Association of Cemeteries.
Fleming shared five ways you can help. “All five of them would be to volunteer, but, you know, there are other things. I would just encourage folks to reach out to their local municipality,” he said. If you’re interested, he advises contacting your local cemetery to see what their greatest need might be.
He adds that if that does not work, you can contact town hall or a local town historian to find out who actually owns the property. You can also join a monument restoration class to learn how to clean gravestones and engage in local history, tying in the stories of yesterday and today.
“And really work with local organizations on fundraising, because there are a lot of cemeteries that really need help,” Fleming concluded.
As for White, he has found some of his ancestors during his projects. He says it’s a labor of love, but one that’s all worth it.