You might call it coincidence. I call it serendipity.

Joe Ferrannini was working in a cemetery in Sidney earlier this week when someone handed him my column from last week about a Civil War veteran’s gravestone at Pine Grove Cemetery in Waterville.

Ferrannini, a gravestone conservator from upstate New York, read with interest.

The column was about Alden Weigelt and Pearley Lachance’s efforts to raise funds to repair the stone of Frank W. Haskell, a Civil War veteran from Benton who was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Weigelt, who places American flags on several gravestones in the cemetery around Memorial Day with his wife, Debora, discovered this year that Haskell’s stone was in rough shape, covered in lichen, leaning backward, and in danger of toppling over.

Weigelt searched for someone to help. He was referred to Lachance, of Winslow, who is known for helping with veterans’ projects. Lachance got on board and called a monument company to see what it would take to fix the stone, and at what cost. He awaits an answer.


Lachance, 85, is chaplain for the Bourque-Lanigan American Legion Post 5 in Waterville who for years has done research on central Maine veterans. Weigelt, 64, is a Capitol Police officer in Augusta and former Waterville police sergeant and former Oakland police officer. He published a book in 2012 about veterans, including his great-grandfather who served in the Civil War. The book also is about the importance of serving others, whether through military work or personal sacrifice.

When Ferrannini, 54, read about Weigelt’s efforts to raise funds for Haskell’s stone, he called him and offered to fix it, free-of-charge.

“It’s really our moral obligation to take care of these veterans,” Ferrannini said.

I spoke with Ferrannini Monday when I learned of his offer. We talked for nearly an hour. An affable man who laughs easily, he told me he spends 12 weeks a year in Maine, conserving stones in cemeteries and teaching people how to do it right. He does workshops for the Maine Old Cemetery Association and they garner so much interest, he often  is approached by volunteers who want to help maintain their town cemeteries.

“The people up here in Maine are great,” he said. “You want to work with them, not for them.”

Ferrannini advises never to power wash stones or apply bleach. Power washing creates fissures in the marble which allow algae, fungi and moss in, deteriorating the stone.


“It’s conservation, not restoration,” he said of his work. “Every time you do something to it, you can take years off the stone.”

Ferrannini owns “Grave Stone Matters,” a one-man business in Hoosick Falls, New York, where he lives. He travels around the country to conserve cemetery stones and has worked all over Maine, from Readfield to Lubec. He majored in math in college and minored in history, becoming increasingly fascinated by genealogy and gravestone conservation, and learning the craft. He did cemetery work as a hobby until he opened his business.

Gravestone conservator Joe Ferrannini, right, of Grave Stone Matters, talks Wednesday about the restoration of the stone of Civil War veteran Frank W. Haskell at Pine Grove Cemetery in Waterville. Haskell was a medal of honor recipient. With Ferrannini are Alden Weigelt, left, and Pearley Lachance. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“It’s a passion,” he said. “It’s a calling, more than anything. I’ve worked on other Medal of Honor awardees’ stones. It’s very gratifying. I know all our veterans are important. All who came before us are important.”

Ferrannini met Weigelt and Lachance at Haskell’s gravestone Wednesday to assess the stone. Ferrannini plans to work on it next week.

“I think we have a common motive,” Ferrannini said. “It’s just one of those things. Somebody has to do it — why not me?”

Weigelt is humbled by Ferrannini’s generosity.


“It restores my faith that there are good people out there that do honor the sacrifice and have respect for our veterans,” he said. “This man is showing respect with his hands and with his efforts. “In these days that we’re living right now, there’s so much negativity. It’s wonderful that someone like that just came right out of the blue and rose to the challenge.”

Haskell, the Civil War veteran buried in Pine Grove, was born in Benton in 1843, entered the U.S. Army in Waterville and became a sergeant major in the 3rd Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for an act of heroism on June 1, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Virginia. He and his fellow soldiers were in combat on that date, and he assumed command of part of his regiment when other officers had been killed or disabled. He bravely led the regiment across a stream, yelling encouragement and directing the men around him on where to attack, according to historical records.

For his actions, he garnered praise and admiration of his entire regiment.

Lachance and Weigelt — and now Ferrannini — are seeing to it that Haskell is not forgotten. Lachance said not everyone is able to do write historical accounts about veterans or conserve their gravestones, but there is something all of us can do to pitch in:

“What every individual can do is, when they see a veteran, is say, ‘Thank you for your service.’ It doesn’t take a long time, or research.”


Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 32 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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