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Historic cemetery project brings history alive for Wakeman campers

Members of the Future Leaders of Wakeman camp spent Tuesday learning about some of Fairfield's past leaders, as they helped clean up the historic Greenfield Hill Cemetery.

The Bronson Road burial ground has headstones that are centuries old, and bear the names of some of the town's prominent founding families, such as Burr, Ogden, Baldwin and Bulkley. The oldest headstone in the cemetery, which is the final resting place for veterans of the Revolution, the War of 1812 and Civil War, dates to 1737.

Tim Cepetelli, unit director at Wakeman Boys and Girls Club's Stratfield Clubhouse, said 25 middle school students are members of the camp, and they spend a week doing community service projects. On Monday, for example, the campers were at Bridgeport's Alpha House, painting and landscaping.

At the cemetery, the campers were split into three groups, each getting a turn either scrubbing -- gently -- the headstones, clearing overgrown weeds or getting a brief history lesson from Daughters of the American Revolution members Betty Oderwald and Cathy Tymniak.

The day not only accomplishes a cleanup, but also gives a focus on the early settlers and leaders of Fairfield, Cepetelli said, and leadership is "what this camp is all about."

"It's interesting to see some of the last names," said Megan Grady, 11, a Tomlinson Middle School student, as she scrubbed a headstone. It was hard work, observed Mairead Derby, 13, and the toughest part, according to the Ludlowe Midde School student, was the weeding.

The work may be tough, said Mickalyn Jacobsen, 12, but rewarding nonetheless.

"My favorite part is after you finish," Jacobsen said, "that feeling you get when you see all the work that you did, and how it helps the community."

Cepetelli said the cemetery cleanup was suggested by Selectman Cristin McCarthy Vahey, and he and his camp co-director, Maria Cimina, worked with local resident Melanie Marks to put the plan into action.

Genevieve Reilly

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