Grateful Dead: A Shelburne Road Cemetery Is Spruced Up | True 802 | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Grateful Dead: A Shelburne Road Cemetery Is Spruced Up

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Published August 24, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.


Shelburne Road Cemetery - COLIN FLANDERS
  • Colin Flanders
  • Shelburne Road Cemetery

A traveling troupe of grave rehabbers has resurrected a South Burlington burial ground.

The Shelburne Road Cemetery has long been a relic to the dead, counting among its 115 or so inhabitants several War of 1812 veterans. But the weight of time transformed this centuries-old cemetery into something better reserved for horror movies, filled with overgrown brush and weather-stained graves. 

The location didn't help: The boneyard is wedged between a car dealership and a gas station along busy Route 7, the oddity of which Seven Days noted in a WTF column a decade ago.

Enter the Vermont Old Cemetery Association, a volunteer-led nonprofit that specializes in breathing new life into old burial grounds. At the request of South Burlington's local cemetery committee, the statewide association hosted a cleanup event last month in the hopes of returning the place to its former glory.

It was a heavy lift.

"We didn't have any tractors to help us, so we were doing it all by hand," said Tom Giffin, a Rutland resident who is president of the Vermont Old Cemetery Association. 

Two dozen volunteers from across the state helped lighten the load, using shovels and elbow grease to restore more than 20 stones that had either tilted or broken apart completely. Then they applied epoxy to restore the inscriptions on almost every stone. "It was a nice community effort," Giffin said. 

The restoration comes as South Burlington ponders the future of the burial ground, which is one of only two municipally owned cemeteries in the city. The other, Eldredge Cemetery, is located near the airport. 

Plots at the Shelburne Road site remain available for purchase, but interest has waned over time; a 2020 burial was the first in nearly 20 years. The city could choose to close the burial ground to new arrivals but would keep it open to the public.

Regardless of what happens, the July 8 cleanup effort made a real difference, said Maureen O'Brien, a member of South Burlington's cemetery committee.

"It looks like a completely different cemetery," she said.