By Julie Huss
DERRY — Lucy Gregg's family likes to look after her.
Now, 167 years after the young woman died, her burial spot in historic Forest Hill Cemetery is getting an upgrade, thanks to a family descendant.
Jim King is working in the area for several weeks while on assignment at Hanscom Air Force base in Bedford, Mass., and decided to take on the task of bringing Gregg's tombstone back to life with a brand new fence.
King is a descendant of the Gregg family and part of a growing list of cemetery supporters "adopting" a gravestone to help keep the markers strong and clean for future generations.
Gregg died at the age of 22 on the eve of her wedding day. Her towering gravestone in the East Derry Cemetery was surrounded by a wooden picket fence that was falling into disrepair.
King spent several days at the 35-acre cemetery, building a new fence for the Gregg plot. He is one of many community groups and individuals taking an interest in the care of Forest Hill, thanks to an "adopt-a-gravestone" program through the Friends of Forest Hill volunteer group.
Dorothy Goldman leads the Forest Hill charge when it comes to making sure the local burial ground is taken care of, from managing crews of volunteers to help with cleanup and stone cleaning, to bringing in community groups to take on cemetery projects, while learning the proper way to care for the aging stones. She is especially proud of the interest in the cemetery.
"It's really taking off and I haven't even advertised," she said of the "adopt-a-gravestone" mission.
Goldman, often sporting her trademark "We're history" shirt, is a staunch volunteer and advocate for the 35-acre cemetery. She leads volunteer efforts and educational events to help people appreciate Forest Hill and keep it looking good.
She formed The Friends of Forest Hill Cemetery to help clean and straighten stones, many dating back to pre-Revolutionary times.
Last year, Goldman entertained community groups including Girl Scouts, students and garden club members to help with stone cleaning. Members of the Pinkerton Academy Alumni Association cleaned and repaired stones belonging to the Academy's founding family.
Eileen Cox said she brings her father to Forest Hill regularly to visit loved ones. Now she and other members of her family are strong supporters of the cemetery, taking on stone cleaning projects of their own.
"It's definitely a family affair," Cox said.
Others have adopted entire rows of stones, or certain sections of the cemetery that are meaningful.
All that volunteer work is paying off. Many stones are now clean, standing tall and waiting for spring for more work to be done, Goldman said.
"This is sparking family interests," she said. "I see flowers on stones where I never saw flowers before. That's a good thing."
To learn more about helping Forest Hill with gravestone repair or other projects, visit forest-hill-1721.webs.com/.
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