In Waterville’s Pine Grove Cemetery on Wednesday morning, the wind was blowing fiercely through the giant pine and maple trees that grow tall over Civil War veteran Frank W. Haskell’s gravestone.

Haskell, awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic efforts during the war, is no longer forgotten, as Alden Weigelt is right to say.

Gravestone conservator Joe Ferrannini and volunteers including Weigelt and his wife, Debora, and members of the Maine Old Cemetery Association, spent the whole day Sunday helping to clean and properly reset Haskell’s stone, which was covered in lichen, leaning backward and in danger of toppling over.

Ferrannini, 54, of upstate New York, just happened to be working in a cemetery in Sidney earlier this month when he was handed a column I had written about Alden Weigelt and Pearley Lachance’s efforts to raise funds to fix the stone, which the Weigelts discovered was in rough condition when they placed an American flag there around Memorial Day.

Gravestone conservator Joe Ferrannini, left, of Grave Stone Matters, removes a flower holder from beneath the gravestone of Civil War veteran Frank W. Haskell on Sunday at Pine Grove Cemetery in Waterville. Haskell was a Medal of Honor recipient. Volunteers from the Maine Old Cemetery Association and others participated in and observed the process of restoring Haskell’s stone as well as the markers of his family members. The group disassembled the white marble monument, and cleaned each section before the ground was leveled and the stone set back in place. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

A Benton native, Haskell was a sergeant major in the 3rd Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He was awarded the Medal of Honor after he assumed command of his regiment in Fair Oaks, Virginia, on June 1, 1862, after other officers had been killed or disabled.

Ferrannini decided to help fix his stone. He contacted Weigelt and offered to do it for free, but when he and a handful of volunteers launched the work Sunday, they didn’t stop there. They also spiffed up the stone of Haskell’s wife, Sara Chandler, and several others nearby marking the graves of her family members.

“They went way beyond what I thought was going to be accomplished,” Weigelt, 64, said Wednesday. “And it was nice to see the respect shown for other members of his family who are resting.”

The family plot, near the entrance to the cemetery off Grove Street, now shines as it should, drawing attention to Haskell’s legacy.

Weigelt, a Capitol police officer in Augusta and former Waterville and Oakland officer, believes it is our duty to help preserve history, including the gravestones of veterans and others who came before us.

Ferrannini is of like mind.

Volunteers assist Sunday in the restoration of the gravestone of Civil War veteran Frank W. Haskell at Pine Grove Cemetery in Waterville. Haskell was a Medal of Honor recipient. Volunteers from the Maine Old Cemetery Association and others participated in and observed the process of restoring Haskell’s stone as well as the markers of his family members. The group disassembled the white marble monument, and cleaned each section before the ground was leveled and the stone set back in place. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“We did everyone in the family lot that we could,” he said. “We just kept going down the line and took care of several other stones.”

They cleaned and reset stones that had been dislodged because people in the past had placed pieces of granite under the bases in an attempt to level them.

Haskell’s stone has a granite base, another marble base and a top marble marker.

“It wasn’t a good, strong foundation,” Ferrannini said. It was tipping back toward the grave over time. It may have even toppled over at some point because the angle of the foundation was severe.  They had shimmed it. We removed all that and put in a good base of compacted sand and stone. It should sit level for a long time.”

Ferrannini, who owns a one-man business, Grave Stone Matters, in Hoosick Falls, New York, spends about 12 weeks a year in Maine working for communities whose cemeteries need help. When I spoke to him Wednesday by phone, he was in the Getchell Cemetery off the Pond Road in West Sidney.

After leaving Sidney, he planned to work  in cemeteries in Whitefield, the St. George area, North Paris, South Thomaston and Martinville before returning home in mid-September. Trained volunteers, including members of the Maine Old Cemetery Association, will help with part of the work.

Volunteer Debora Weigelt of Waterville works Sunday to scrape lichen from a headstone belonging to a family member of Civil War veteran Frank W. Haskell at Pine Grove Cemetery in Waterville. Haskell was a Medal of Honor recipient. Volunteers from the Maine Old Cemetery Association and others participated in and observed the process of restoring Haskell’s stone as well as the stones of his family members. The group disassembled the white marble monument, and cleaned each section before the ground was leveled and the stone set back in place. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“I’m lucky I’m here,” Ferrannini said of being in Maine. “It’s nice to be here and be appreciated and have people willing to come out and help.”

He noted that it is important to become involved in preservation efforts, but those who do so must be trained. People may be well-meaning, but they can actually take years off stones and do irreparable harm if they do not have the correct training, according to Ferrannini, who hosts training workshops for the Cemetery Association once a year.

I asked him what Sunday’s work would have cost had it not been offered free-of-charge and with no volunteers to help. Ferrannini estimated the job would have taken him two or three days to do alone and probably would have approached $2,000, give or take.

Asked why he does such work, he said it is a calling.

“I have to do this. There’s no reason that he should be left in that condition, so it just had to be done,” he said of Haskell’s grave.

Weigelt said watching Ferrannini and the others work Sunday in the cemetery was both humbling and educational.

“There wasn’t any down time,” he said. “They did what they did for, like, eight hours.”

Weigelt and Ferrannini are humble men who would take no credit for the effort, though it would not have happened without them.

“It was rewarding and humbling to play a part in this,” Weigelt said, simply.

And Ferrannini ?

“It’s about saving the veterans,” he said. “It’s not about any of us doing the work. It’s about the fact that it’s getting done.”

Spoken like two, true patriots.

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

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