Preserving Granby history in its cemeteries

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I have always enjoyed walking through cemeteries and seeing the tombstones as well as the names and dates on each one. This is a short biography of the person buried below.

Depending on the cemetery, I see many leaning or broken stones, caused by the shifting earth. After two hundred years in the ground, with shifting soil, erosion and stone degradation, the tombstones themselves start to move as well. Two hundred years ago, unlike today there were no vaults to house the caskets. Without the vault, the weight of the earth would crush the casket and the stone would sink, often causing it to lean. Trees or small shrubs next to tombstones, often placed by loved ones, grow roots that similarly disrupt the tombstone, uprooting it.

Fifteen years ago, I took a walk-through Granby Cemetery, with Stan Wazlewski and Polly Hall. As members of the Granby Cemetery Association, we were tasked with counting the tombstones—which ones were leaners and which stones were broken. We had counted over 40 leaners and at least 10 broken stones. However, at that time, we did not know who to contact to fix these stones and since then, more and more tombstones have started to lean or break.

Fortunately, a few years ago, I learned about the efforts that West Granby Cemetery has taken to fix its stones, and specifically who could fix them. Beyond the Gravestone is a small outfit whose mission is to restore tombstones that have fallen into bad shape.

Will and Lisa Cornell, a husband-and-wife team, have been repairing tombstones for over a decade. They have traveled to various cities—such as Newport, R.I. and Nyack, N.Y.—and have repaired hundreds of tombstones. Locally, they have repaired some stones in the West Granby Cemetery, as well as Hillside Cemetery in Unionville. Currently, the Cornells are helping us repair tombstones in the Granby Cemetery.

This long overdue project is finally getting started. Each year the Cornells will repair the leaners, broken stones and others that are in bad shape. While this project will take a few years to complete, the outcome will be worth the wait. We are lucky to have the crew of Beyond the Gravestone work in our cemetery.

In the photo at the top, Will scrubs D2 cleaner on the tombstone, then washes it away with water, which cleans the stone. If the stone is broken, he will use epoxy on the stone and clamp the stone. When the epoxy is sealed, he takes off the clamp and the stone is set in the ground and looks good for future generations to see. Next year, Beyond the Gravestone will fix more stones in Sections Four, Five and Six to look much better and remain in good shape for many years to come.

Want to learn more about the Granby Cemetery as well as the other cemeteries in Granby? Join the Salmon Brook Historical Society by calling 860-653-9713 or go online at