State of repair: Hillside Cemetery is a repository of North Adams' history, a final resting place for the city's leaders, inventors, soldiers and others for centuries. When Roger Eurbin moved back to the area after his retirement, he was disappointed in the state it had fallen into. With its old stones — some dating back to the 1700s — splayed one way or another and the foundations cracked, he put together a group of volunteers to start the painstaking process of restoring them. It's a labor of love for Eurbin, who is originally from Adams and left to join the Navy and who spent his career living in different places around the country. Eagle correspondent Christopher Marcisz spoke to Eurbin at the cemetery, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, earlier this week.
1. When did your interest in cemeteries begin? Have you always been interested in them?
No, but I've always been interested in history. … [That has] brought me to cemeteries around the world, here and there. You learn a lot just from reading what you find in them. So I was fascinated that here in North Adams we had this very old cemetery dating back to the 1700s. I was primarily interested in the veterans here, which go back to the Revolutionary War. And when I visited here and saw the condition it was in, I was appalled. I put together a volunteer group, with assistance and support from the mayor, and we raised funds on our own and started to work. We've been at it now 2 1 / 2 years.
2. How many people work with you?
It ranges. We started with myself and another fellow, and now we have six to eight depending on the day. We are all basically retired guys, and if we can make it we do. We work every Wednesday and every other Saturday.
3. Why should people care about the condition of this cemetery?
This is our history here. These people, not just the veterans, are many of the movers and shakers that have made North Adams what it is.
4. Are you ever surprised by what you find?
Every day, we find surprises. Basically, here are all the names we associate with the town — for example, Gallup, Haskins — these are all people buried here.
5. Is the work hard?
It can be. These stones are old, many are very brittle. They tend to break on occasion. The wind has done damage, acid rain has done damage. You see the size of this one we fixed yesterday, by hand. And as you can see, there are some huge stones here.
6. How can people help?
If they can volunteer their time, there's work anybody can do. It's not just the bull work we do on the stones but, for example, cleaning the stones. It's not that hard. Down there, we had to cut the brush back, and we found 12 stones that were ignored beneath the brush. So far, we've repaired over 450 stones. Repaired them and reset them. See that? It doesn't look like much, but it took eight of us to do it. It had fallen and was all in pieces. So we had to dig out the foundation, we had to epoxy the base together, then the stone was epoxied to that. Then we found all those fragments and were able to piece it together.