Progress being made on cemetery upgrade

Kathy McCarty, Special to The County
17 years ago

 CARIBOU, Maine – Work is progressing at the Caribou Veterans’ Cemetery, with the Army Corps of Engineers on site preparing the ground for the addition of much-needed columbarium walls.

“We’re running out of room for cremated remains and need to add wall space,” said Harry Hafford, a member of the cemetery’s Board of Directors.
The facility currently has space for 75 but according to Hafford, those spaces are filling up fast, largely due to the cost difference between traditional burial and that of interring cremated remains. Weather also factors into the equation.
“We’re running out of room for a couple reasons. First, many families can’t afford a traditional burial and opt for the more affordable cremation and interment offered with the walls. Then there’s the weather – cremation and interment in a wall can be done year-round, while burial in the ground can only be done when the ground’s not frozen,” said Hafford.
Traditional burial in an area that often sees the ground frozen several months out of a year creates an extended mourning period for families as well. When a loved one passes in the winter, families can hold a funeral but have to wait until the weather warms for burial, extending the grieving process.
“The grieving process is reduced to a one-time occasion with use of the walls. They also are more accessible in the winter than traditional plots that become snow-covered,” said Hafford.
Hafford said it was hoped grant money would be available this year for expansion purposes but that the expected money didn’t come through.
“We’d applied for the grant last year but were told by Sen. Olympia Snowe’s and Congressman Mike Michaud’s offices that the money wouldn’t be available this year,” said Hafford.
The project was expected to cost $800,000, with the cemetery required to raise 10 percent in matching funds. Hafford said another grant application has been filed but nothing will be known on that for some time. In the meantime, fund-raising efforts continue.
Over the Memorial Day holiday, the cemetery received a donation from a Caribou couple.
“Robert and Julie Albert, of Caribou, donated $1,000 for the cemetery project. He’s a veteran and said he wanted to help others like him,” said Hafford.
A 20-year veteran who served in the Korean War, Albert said he wanted to make a difference and hoped others would do likewise.
“We have a very nice veterans’ cemetery. A lot of people – volunteers are working on the upkeep. But there’s a large reliance on federal and state government to maintain the site. As a vet, this may be my final resting place. It’s up to us – vets – to step up to the plate and do whatever we can, whether by volunteering or donating money, to ensure our fellow vets have a final resting place,” said Albert.
Albert said he’d also like to see others supporting the project.
“As with Memorial Day, I’d like to see the cemetery remembered for what it is. I’d like to see more schools recognize the values of vets,” said Albert.
For a long time, Albert said there was nothing like the Veterans’ Cemetery in Aroostook County. Now that there is, he said it would be nice to see younger individuals, not just the older generation, showing interest.
“Attendance this year (for Memorial Day activities at the cemetery) was great but I didn’t see many young faces. I’d like to see kids introduced to more education about Memorial Day and the importance of remembering those who’ve served our country,” said Albert.
Albert isn’t the only member of his family to have served his country.
“I also served in the federal Civil Service for 10 years. My wife has served, as have my daughters and sons. Our family has been very involved in the military and are proud of our efforts. That’s why we decided to donate $1,000 to this project,” said Albert. “We like to remember that ‘all gave some but that some gave all.’ I consider myself one of the fortunate to be able to give this. It would be nice though to see those capable doing likewise.”
And doing likewise is just what members of the Disabled Veterans Auxiliary, Unit 10, of Presque Isle did recently.
“Lona Brewer and Myra Cray recently donated $1,800 on behalf of the organization. That will help a lot,” said Hafford.
Work at the site was expected to be completed before the end of August, with construction of the new walls beginning within a year if all goes as planned.
“We’ll do what we can as money becomes available. If we have to do one wall at a time, that’s what we’ll do,” said Hafford.
Anyone interested in making a donation can do so by making checks payable to Northern Maine Veterans Cemetery and mailing them to: NMVC Corporation, PO Box 312, Caribou, ME 04736. For more information on the cemetery or fund-raising efforts, contact Hafford at 435-6024.