Joe Doiron installing a new cross on the grave of Marguerite Russell.
Story and photos by Zendelle Bouchard
On Wednesday, August 9, 2023, a group of cemetery enthusiasts began work to restore gravestones and markers at Oakdale Cemetery. Sanford residents Joe and Debbie Doiron were joined by Parks Director Brian Desrochers, Ken Allan of Acton and Nadine Gookin of North Berwick.
The group installed a new cross to replace one that had deteriorated and cleaned several stones in the southern end of the old part of the Cemetery. The genesis of the project was the search by the Doirons for a grave belonging to an infant twin brother of Debbie’s uncle. While that grave has not yet been located, instead they found another family member’s grave, that of Marguerite G. Russell, who died in 1914 at just two days old. Her grave was marked by a wooden cross that had deteriorated and crumbled. That was not the original marker, but one that a cousin recalls being replaced by Debbie’s grandfather, probably in the 1950s.
While Joe installed Marguerite’s new mahogany cross with stainless-steel name plate, others were hard at work cleaning several marble stones in the section of the cemetery known as the Town Lot. These stones are mostly marked only with initials, while at least two are marked simply “UNKNOWN.”
Several stones belonging to the Huston family were also cleaned. These stones had fallen or been toppled off their bases, leaving metal pins exposed. The original pins were removed recently for safety reasons. New pins will be installed, and the individual stones set back in place.
Allan and Gookin are members of the Maine Old Cemetery Association and bring experience working on other cemetery restoration projects. They use approved safe methods for cleaning stones, which are taught in MOCA-sponsored workshops. The process uses water and D/2, a biodegradable cleaner which is also used at Arlington National Cemetery. D/2 is biological agent that continues cleaning the stone for weeks after it is applied.
In January, the City Council’s Property Subcommittee heard Joe’s proposal to start the Friends of Oakdale Group and approved the project. He hopes to enlist more Sanford residents to help. If you are interested in helping restore gravestones at Oakdale Cemetery or learning how to clean your own family’s markers there, call him at 207-351-7797 and leave a message.
Oakdale Cemetery was laid out in 1893 by R. T. Woodward, a nationally recognized landscaper and naturalist. The property is owned by the City of Sanford. It was originally managed by an association but is now managed and maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department.