Good fences make good neighbors: Volunteers pitch in at Center Cemetery in Southampton

View Photo Gallery
  • Pamela Gaspar, a member of the Southampton Cemetery Commission, brushes away rust she removed from the wrought-iron fence at Center Cemetery in preparation for painting on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pamela Gaspar, a member of the Southampton Cemetery Commission, uses a wire brush to remove rust from the Center Cemetery fence on Saturday in an ongoing community effort to repaint the wrought-iron structure. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pamela Gaspar, a member of the Southampton Cemetery Commission, uses a wire brush to remove rust from the Center Cemetery fence on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in a community effort to repaint the wrought-iron structure. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Volunteer Kathy Kruzel of Southampton brushes loose rust from the fence bounding Center Cemetery on Saturday. The conditions Saturday morning were too damp for painting but good for preparing the surface. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pamela Gaspar removes rust from Southampton’s Center Cemetery fence on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Spiderwebs catch the morning dew on the wrought-iron fence at Center Cemetery on College Highway in Southampton on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. Volunteers, including Pamela Gaspar, right, have been busy repainting the structure. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Southampton’s Center Cemetery is located on College Highway (Route 10) between High Street and Pomeroy Meadow Road. A volunteer effort is underway to repaint the wrought-iron fence that bounds three sides of the property. Photographed on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 9/27/2020 3:47:59 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — The wrought-iron fence around the historic Center Cemetery is getting a fresh coat of paint, thanks to the efforts of volunteers.

“It’s really a Tom Sawyer moment,” said Judith Miller Conlin, the chair of the town’s cemetery commission.

Conlin said that people started painting the fence, which is more than 100 years old, earlier this month with volunteer shifts on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. The committee is still looking for more volunteers, she said, and the plan is to continue painting until it “gets too chilly,” after which the painting will resume again in the spring.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Conlin said, noting that the black paint they’re using is “very dense. It’s going to ruin your paintbrushes.”

Conlin said that a number of people have stopped by and encouraged the volunteers. Konstantine Sierros, the owner of of Paisano’s Restaurant & Pizzeria, brought by pizza and soda one time as a thank you.

Sierros said he’d seen the volunteers at work as he was driving by and thought their lending a hand “was the most grandest thing to do.”

“We’re all one community,” Sierros said.

Those interested in volunteering can reach out to Pamela Gaspar, another member of the cemetery commission, at 413-539-3303 or email gasparpam17@gmail.com.

Gaspar said that if people want to get a group together, she can set them up to paint at any time.

“It’s a really, really giant job,” she said. “We want to make it as easy as possible.”

Gaspar noted that, at most, they’ve had seven people painting the fence in a day, and Conlin said that so far no men have volunteered. “We would certainly love to have any of the guys who want to come out,” Conlin said.

Center Cemetery is the town’s oldest cemetery, with its first recorded burial in 1738. Simeon Wait died from “drinking too much cold water,” according to the marker.

The current wrought-iron fence was installed in 1900, a gift to the town from William Foley. It is Conlin’s understanding that the Lyman Sheet Metal Company made the fence.

Conlin, 66, is a lifetime resident of Southampton who lives in a house built by her grandfather’s grandfather. She has served on the cemetery commission for over 25 years.

“I’ve always been drawn to cemeteries,” said Conlin, explaining that she enjoys the historical insights gravestones provide. “It’s interesting to see through the generations how the images have changed.”

Conlin also noted that she has a number of ancestors buried at Center Cemetery, and that she intends to be buried there as well.

“I like to poke around and keep things nice for them,” she said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2020 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy