NORTH YARMOUTH — When it comes to procuring cemetery memorials for the town’s forgotten military veterans, Town Clerk Debbie Grover leaves no stone unturned.
With Independence Day around the corner, she said, it’s a particularly good time to remember those who fought to secure and maintain this country’s freedom.
“I have always had a soft spot in my heart for veterans. They were willing to give up their lives for our country and our freedom, then and now,” Grover said this week. “All veterans should be recognized for that dedication regardless of how long ago that service was.”
First it was a headstone for Winthrop Baston, a captain in the American Revolution whose marker was in pieces, sunken under the earth, and all but forgotten. Grover spent three years trying to obtain a new stone for Baston, an ancestor of longtime North Yarmouth fire chief Dick Baston and his son Clark – also a former North Yarmouth fire chief, and still its public works director.
Grover achieved success last fall, with a new stone for the elder Baston at his Walnut Hill Cemetery plot, just in time for a Veterans Day dedication.
But that was only the beginning.
“I have three others that I want to get monuments for, who don’t have them at all,” Grover said last November. While she unfortunately did not know of any living family members of those veterans – an important piece of the memorial-procuring puzzle – “I’m not giving up,” she said.
Grover has now obtained monuments for two of those Civil War veterans, Sgt. Leander Frost and Pvt. Edward Gooding, which D.C. Stilkey & Son set at no charge early this month.
Gooding (1841-1923) served in Company G of the 25th Maine Infantry, and was an ancestor of Moria Gooding Vincent, who grew up and still resides in town, according to Grover. The clerk supplied the Office of Veterans Affairs with a letter of request from Vincent, along with Gooding’s birth and death records and a copy of a military roster from the war.
Frost (1847-1921) served in Company E of the 30th Infantry during the Civil War and was wounded in 1864. Grover found copies of his pay receipts and military medical file, as well as his birth and death records.
The third veteran without a stone is Luther S. Baker, a World War I veteran who never married, according to Grover. She has found records of his Army enlistment and discharge before the war, and a record of his re-enlistment during the war, but not that discharge, which she must find since her application to the VA office in April was denied, she said.
The state Archive Office is helping with the search, the clerk added.
While getting a memorial for Baker would wrap up her work for now, Grover said “you never know what you may find going forward in the world of cemeteries.”
North Yarmouth Town Clerk Debbie Grover has obtained three tombstones for military veterans to replace those that had been destroyed or vanished, and she’s working on a fourth.