Branchville Cemetery: Who will maintain the unwanted property?

Voiceless, silent, the residents of Branchville Cemetery have been left on their own.

“Charles Kennel 1851-1919; his wife, Mary, 1854-1906; their sons, Charles, 1890-1911, Edward, 1883-1923.”

“Charles R. Flynn, Oct. 25, 1922 — April 14, 2007.”

“Carl A. Peterson, 1857-1945; Jeannie Alinquist, his wife, 1875-1945; their son, Oscar F., 1899-1902.”

“Beloved mother, grandmother & sister, Bertha I. Churchill, 1910-1993 — ‘This too shall pass.’”

Who will serve as their guardian?

“Grass is a foot high. It looks horrible,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi told the selectmen in early June.

The grass is cut now.

Marconi had been getting complaints about the cemetery’s lack of maintenance, and he told the Board of Selectmen back on June 6 that he’d gotten an estimate for getting the place cleaned up.

“It’s going to be about $1,400, $1,500,” he said.

A funeral home had been caring for it, but it was bought by another funeral home that’s bowing out.

“When they were called, they said ‘We don’t want anything to do with it,’ ” Marconi told the selectmen.

“Who owns it?” asked Selectman Steve Zemo.

“It was traced to a lady who may still be alive in Texas, but no one wants anything to do with it,” Marconi said.

“I am so sorry that Branchville Cemetery is in such limbo,” Susan Law, chairwoman of the town’s Graveyard Restoration Committee, said in an email response to The Press. “For several years the town has been trying to sort out the lack of a deed issue and how to legally move forward.”

The town has been getting some pressure to take the cemetery over, and improve maintenance, Marconi said.

There is a legal process that allows towns to claim abandoned cemeteries.

“We’d have to petition the court to allow us the town to take over,” he said.

“There’s a potential revenue stream, if there are plots available,” said Zemo.

Alas, that’s not the case.

“As noted in previous discussions with the town, there will be no income stream from the cemetery as there are few, if any, remaining gravesites to be sold,” Law told The Press.

And while the Graveyard Restoration Committee might seem just the entity to be given authority over an abandoned cemetery, they’re not eager for the added responsibility.

“The Graveyard Restoration Committee cannot take on another cemetery,” Law said. “The semi-annual cleanup would have to be done by the town, or contracted out to the mowing company.

“The Graveyard Restoration Committee would continue with plans for documenting, photographing and recording the existing tombstones,” she said.

Branchville Cemetery has been in use since the late 1880s and into the 21st Century.