Cemetery cleanup honors history, service

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While rain blanketed “Operation Stand Down Hill” Saturday morning, people like Stephen Merolla, Elise Carlson, Doug Stephens and Dave Morrocco weren’t about to abandon their scheduled work session at one of Johnston’s most important historical cemeteries.

Saturday was officially designated as Historic Cemetery Restoration and Awareness Day across Rhode Island, and that’s why Merolla and his small yet energetic crew refused to let the wet weather ruin their plans.

“As part of the statewide event, we clean this cemetery every year,” said Merolla, an active member of the Johnston Historical Society. “The number of volunteers here today is obviously much lower than usual because of the weather, but we were not going to cancel or reschedule this important work session.”

After all, as Merolla added: “This is an important property, especially what Operation Stand Down Rhode Island stands for.”

Merolla and company raked leaves, cut down unwanted debris from trees and performed other work to beautify what is officially known as Cemetery JN044, the Daily-Caesar Lot.

The group also got a visit from a woman and her two children who lent their help to the effort.

“They’re going to adopt a cemetery just around the corner form here,” Merolla said. “We really appreciated their valuable help and thank them for coming … We always need volunteers, and we specially need people to adopt cemeteries.”

Merolla pointed out that Morrocco is a new member of the Johnston Historical Society and Cemetery Committee, while Carlson, who doubles as the society’s recording secretary, and Stephens, who is a trustee, are long-serving members.

The society meets at the Museum Barn on the Elijah Angell House property off Route 44 in Johnston. Membership costs $20 per person and $30 for a family. For more information – or to offer help during a cemetery cleanup – call 231-3380.

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