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HARVARD — The Harvard Cemetery Commission is seeking sponsors to help protect Harvard’s sacred past. In lieu of seeking public funds, the commission is providing an opportunity for the private sponsorship of the commission’s ongoing effort to preserve the ancient Shaker “lollypop” gravemarkers at the town-owned Shaker Cemetery on South Shaker Road.

The grave markers have a history steeped in paint. The markers were maintained in the late 1800s at the direction of the Shakers by gravekeepers who painted the cast iron markers with milk paint. Over the ensuing decades, local ladies garden clubs and Boy Scouts have done their part to try to preserve the markers by scraping the chipping layers and reapplying various paints, including lead based paints. Two years ago, the Cemetery Commission moved forward with the historically-accepted and lovingly applied modern technique of preserving the markers by powder coating.

Under the direction of Harvard native Jeff Gould, owner of Central Massachusetts Powder Coating, a limited run powder coating was performed on a three markers in 2003. The results were spectacular with an evenly applied, flat white surface enveloping the lollypop markers within a protective coating. The markers had otherwise been in extreme risk of suffering irreparable corrosion due to direct contact with the earth and exposure to the elements.

In the fiscal year ended June 30, the commissioners endeavored to protect more of the markers with the powder coating of 30 more monuments. But approximately 150 markers remain exposed to the elements with the costs prohibitive to complete the project with commission funds. Hence was born the idea of allowing for philanthropic assistance for this sacred project.

“The Shakers in Maine have permitted us to remove the markers and instead place just one monument to mark the communal grave,” said Harvard Cemetery Commission Chairman Jack Spero. “But we feel the lollypop markers are important not only to identify the individual burial sites of these ancient town residents, but that the markers themselves are a critical historical asset belonging to the Town of Harvard that must be preserved before they’re lost forever.”

The Harvard Cemetery Commission is offering public sponsorship opportunities to help protect these precious gravemarkers. For the cost of $100 per stone, your name will be documented with the Cemetery Commission as having helped preserve the monuments upon these hallowed lands. Anonymous donations will also be accepted, as well as memorial donations and donations in tribute to others.

Donations may be sent to the Harvard Cemetery Commission c/o Preservation of Shaker Grave Markers, Harvard Town Hall, 13 Ayer Road, Harvard, MA 01451. Receipts acknowledging your donation will be mailed to those who provide a return address. Check with your tax adviser as to whether your donation is tax deductible. Please make checks payable to the “Town of Harvard” and write in the memo portion of the check “Shaker Grave Markers Project.”

For more information contact Spero at 978-456-8743 or by email jmspero@charter.net.

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