Albany Diocesan Cemeteries’ 3 phase restoration project at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Watervliet
Men, women and children volunteered and dug out, cleaned, repaired, reset, and recorded gravestones marking the graves of veterans, many stones dating from the 1860s to early 1900s. Over 50 gravestones have been identified, cleaned and repaired for men (and one Army Corp Nurse WWII) serving in the Civil War, Spanish American War, WWI and WWII. The hardest part is digging out the five to six foot tall marble headstones for Civil War soldiers. They are often sunk low in the ground or leaning so much they are vulnerable to breakage. Resetting them helps preserve them for many more decades. There are hundreds of veterans’ graves in need of attention making it necessary to keep the work going!
In partnership with the Watervliet Historical Society, Albany Diocesan Cemeteries began a year-long project in the Spring of 2018, mapping, researching, excavating, restoring and replacing veterans’ gravestones from the ground where they lay broken and/or buried for decades. St. Patrick’s Cemetery has burials dating back to the early 1830s. Before the start of the project, it was believed that there at least 175 veteran graves from the Civil War to WWII. During Phase 1, we identified over 1,000 veteran graves, most from WWII, and have recorded their locations into a database. The project grew to be much larger than anticipated!
Phase I: A comprehensive survey of the St. Patrick’s Cemetery began Memorial Day weekend, 2018 with assistance from local Boy Scout Troop # 1279 as part of a service project. The Scouts documented graves with GPS coordinates for mapping purposes. A newly created map including photos now serves as documentation of the gravesites.
At the beginning of the project, 175 veteran graves were known or suspected. Two months into the project, and near the completion of Phase 1, we identified and mapped over 1,000 graves!
Phase II: Cemetery staff, restoration professionals and trained volunteers freed many stones and bases that were covered in part or whole by the ground. The gravestones were then cleaned and necessary repairs were made to as many veteran graves as possible. Over 800 (80%) of the monuments and markers required some level of restoration. Repairs included resetting stones on new foundations and bases with specially prepared mortars and epoxies appropriate for the type of stone. The graves were then leveled with topsoil and seeded. Each stone was tended to according to its condition and all efforts were made to restore the original gravestones and preserve them. In the case where original gravestones marking veterans’ graves were no longer legible or were broken and deteriorated beyond repair, Albany Diocesan Cemeteries submitted applications to the Veterans Memorial Department with supporting service records to obtain and install replacement stones.
Phase III: A pictorial narrative and final report was be prepared by the cemetery’s historian that included a detailed spreadsheet of all veterans’ graves identified by name of the deceased, era of service, branch, regiment/unit/company and an account of what repairs were made or date the stone was replaced. A pictorial narrative of the project (before and after pictures) was provided to the Watervliet Historical Society’s museum for public viewing.
View more photos of the project on our Facebook page.
The importance of this project was evidenced by the collection of veterans’ gravestones in St. Patrick’s Cemetery that were illegible or barely legible because of age and exposure to the elements. It was reinforced as we discovered and identified in Phase 1 nearly 4 times the number of known or suspected veteran graves! Albany Diocesan Cemeteries takes our commitment to uphold and honor our veterans service to heart and hold true to that promise by doing what we can to restore as many of the memorials of these long deceased veterans as the project allows.
The outcome of this project was hundreds of fully restored gravesites in St. Patrick’s Cemetery. Newly repaired stones or replacement stones serve as proper memorials to soldiers and sailors who served our country from as long ago as the Civil War.
Along with our dedicated staff and individual volunteers, other community partners included Boy Scout Troop # 1279, Grave Stone Matters Professional Restoration Services, Travelers Insurance, and Old Friends Genealogy Research Services.
This project is funded in part by Albany Diocesan Cemeteries; General Peter Gansevoort Chapter- National Society Daughters of the American Revolution; Trustco Bank; D/2 Biological Solutions; Merendino Cemetery Care; Law Offices of Timothy J. O’Connor; Sons of Union Civil War Vets; 125th Regiment, NY; Troy Irish Genealogy Society; the Golub Foundation and individual private donations.
Rooted in patriotism and a deep love for country, this project expresses our reverence for those who fought and died for our freedom. It was also a great educational opportunity for Boy Scout Troop #1279 as they learned survey and mapping techniques; and for our volunteers who worked under the guidance of professional gravestone restorers, learning how to clean and reset stones using best practices.
These are examples of stones for veterans needing repair or replacement, as in the case of the stone on the right. The stone in the middle is actually five feet tall. It is broken and the bottom half is buried under the sod.
Volunteers are an integral part of our restoration projects.
Please contact us to learn how you or your group can volunteer or assist!
Kelly Grimaldi: [email protected] or (518) 350-7679
St. Patrick’s Cemetery is among many Catholic cemeteries that have served the Church for decades. Thank you to all of the organizations, community groups, volunteers and donors for your support of this project – a corporal work of mercy. None of our heroes should rest in graves that are not properly memorialized.
U.S. News and World Report: DAR Donates $5K for NY Cemetery’s Veterans Memorial Project Sept. 19, 2018
Times Union: “Volunteers help restore veterans’ gravesites“, October 5, 2018.
WNYT News Channel 13: “Volunteers clean up veterans’ gravestones at Watervliet cemetery” October 3, 2018.