HARVARD -- The Cemetery Commission received a generous donation in late November from one of the remaining members of Shaker Society of New Gloucester, Maine. Brother Arnold wrote on behalf of the Shaker Society and Shaker Central Trust Fund on Nov. 26, sending a check for $1,000 "to help with the cleanup in the Shaker Cemetery due to the recent storm damage."

Brother Arnold also inquired "as to the disposition of the broken markers" discovered in the wake of Hurricane Sandy's effects on the region.

Cemetery Commission Chairman Bruce Dolimount responded on behalf of the commission, thanking Brother Arnold for the "very generous gift," and advised the money has been deposited "into a special fund for the preservation of the Shaker Cemetery and the markers."

Dolimount advised that "the broken markers have been sent out for repair and powder coating." The markers have all been removed at the cemetery for safe keeping while the commission prepares to have eight massive pine trees felled within the historic cemetery on South Shaker Road.

The markers are being restored by Jeff Gould of Central Massachusetts Powder Coating in Clinton. The Cemetery Commission continues to seek public donations towards the project. Donations should be sent to the Harvard Cemetery Commission, attn: Shaker Cemetery marker project, Harvard Town Hall, 13 Ayer Road, Harvard, MA 01451.

A handful of markers were damaged overnight on Monday, Oct. 29, when a massive pine tree snapped mid-trunk and toppled across several rows of cast iron grave markers, known as "lollipop" markers due to their shape. The tree was one of eight that was banded with yellow ribbon and earlier targeted for removal over fears the mega trees posed a risk to the markers and grave sites.

Since the pre-Halloween storm, the lollipop markers have all been removed and replaced with wooden sticks as temporary markers. Previously-restored lollipop markers are being stored together at Fruitlands Museum on Prospect Hill. The rest of the lot are being stored at Central Mass Powder Coating and will be restored before being returned to the cemetery.

"After the damage from the storm has been repaired, we will reinstall approximately 280 markers, preserved through the powder coating method," wrote Dolimount. "We hope to have the project completed by early spring." Dolimount promised Brother Arnold "at that time we will send pictures of the restored cemetery."

The Cemetery Commission met to conduct its routine monthly meeting Monday afternoon at Bellevue Cemetery, where the status of the tree-removal project was discussed. Commissioners said they were advised by Sean Bilodeau, whose Harvard tree company was the low bidder on the project, that the ground at the Shaker Cemetery remains too soft to bring in heavy equipment for the job.

Commissioners said Bilodeau warned that the heavy snow cover has acted as an insulator and prevented the ground from a deep freeze. The plan has been to bring in a crane when the ground froze this winter to safely lower the tree in sections.

"We are awaiting Mr. Bilodeau's decision on when the ground is sufficiently frozen," said Cemetery Commissioner Jack Spero.

The project will proceed "whenever he feels comfortable," said Cemetery Commissioner Whit Sprague.

Spero said Bilodeau considered using a Bobcat to plow the snow cover off the grass to allow the ground to freeze. Dropping the tree with chain saws has been dismissed as a risk to the grounds and the rock walls that surround the acre-sized historical cemetery.

However, the timing must be right in that heavy equipment could also damage the grounds and collapse sections of the earth where voids may exist atop graves. Ideally, the temperatures will persistently hover below freezing to allow the project to proceed shortly, the commissioners said Monday.

In other business, the commissioners voted unanimously to survey surrounding communities to determine the local rates for burial services and plot prices. Dolimount agreed to gather the data. 

Concerns are keeping the costs low but high enough to cover "the cost of interment, labor and raw materials," said Dolimount.

The current pricing schedule is $650 for a single grave or $1,300 for two graves. Each grave may contain one casket and three cremation interments. Additional burial costs apply -- $625 for caskets and $400 for cremation burials conducted Tuesday through Friday. Added costs apply for burials conducted on a Friday after 11 a.m. and on Saturdays. No burials are conducted on Sundays or Mondays.

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