Workers from across state help beautify Connecticut Veterans Cemetery
MIDDLETOWN — The Connecticut Veterans Cemetery is a place of beauty, honor, and quiet serenity.
But this week the cemetery was alive with bucket trucks, cranes and the roar of power saws and wood chippers.
It was all part of a unique program to upgrade the final resting place of thousands of Connecticut veterans and their spouses.
For the third year in a row, trees crews and arborists from across the state came together to donate their time, effort and machinery, large and small, to make the already beautiful cemetery that much more beautiful.
The reason many of the tree workers gave for their participation: It’s for them.
It’s for the veterans, they said, gesturing at rows upon rows of gravestones.
The project in Middletown was part of “Saluting Branches: arborists United for Veteran Remembrance,” a nationwide effort to beautify veteran cemeteries.
This year, crews were at work in 67 veteran cemeteries in 40 states and in Mexico City (which has a U.S. veterans cemetery), said Matt Bartelme, owner of Danbury-based Bart’s Tree Service.
Bartelme served as site leader for the effort in Middletown, which attracted “65-70” workers from a host of companies.
There were some “30-40” companies in all, including Woodbridge Estate Care, Ed the Treeman from Prospect, Arbor Services of Connecticut, Tree Tactics of Killingworth, and Tree Climbing Solutions as well as Eversource.
“These are definitely artists and craftsmen who know what they are doing,” Bartelme said.
“The amount of equipment and the scope of the work that is happening is astounding,” Bartelme said. “It’s really incredible.”
His sister Michelle Masciarelli readily agreed.
“This is the third year we’ve been coming out here and every year it keeps growing and growing bigger and bigger,” Masciarelli said.
“There are an astonishing amount of people who are donating their time and machinery and equipment to beautify the cemetery for the veterans. It’s an amazing, amazing event,” Masciarelli said.
As site leader, Bartelme came to the cemetery twice in recent weeks to meet with Cemetery Director Reed Johnson to go over the property and see what needed to be done.
In the 1970s the state planted a large number of trees on the cemetery property.
“The state was extremely over-zealous,” was how Bartelme described it.
That over-zealousness meant the number of trees had to be reduced.
Further, many of the trees were white pines, which grow at a particularly fast rate and are not as elegant as the London planetrees that are an integral part of the cemetery.
This week, crews were spread out across the face of the entire cemetery.
There was a giant crane capable of lifting an entire tree out of the ground at once.
But there were also smaller jobs, such as carefully pruning new saplings.
Whatever job was needed, the crews were more than ready to undertake the work.
“Most of us are members of the Tree Care Association and a lot of us know one another so some there’s a lot of camaraderie. It runs like a well-oiled machine,” Bartelme said.
This was the first year Mike Severino had taken part in the project.
Severino works for Tree Tactics, the Killingworth company his brother Daniel owns.
Mike Severino was more than pleased to be part of the effort.
“We have family that served (in the military) including an uncle who served in Korea in the Air Force,” he said.
He said he and his brother were pleased to be asked to participate, “because of the respect for the military that have, we were glad to take the time out for a good cause.”
Someone else who was pleased by the effort is the state’s Veteran’s Affairs Commissioner, Thomas J. Saadi.
Saadi said most of the arborists “aren’t veterans themselves,” but their commitment to beautifying he cemetery “really has had an impact on the families and loved ones who come to visit the cemetery.”
The tree crews recruited by Bartelme “have done an amazing job over the last several years,” Saddi said during a telephone conversation late Wednesday.
The work done Wednesday complements the work that was being done by crews that were re-arranging gravestones and laying down new material in areas.
“Government can’t do it all by itself,” Saadi said.
So, a public private partnership like the Saluting Branches effort “enables us collectively to fulfill our mission of creating a world-class cemetery that matches the service and sacrifice of the veterans who are buried here,” he added.
Some small projects still remain to be completed, Bartelme said as tree trucks began leaving the site this week.
All in all, was he pleased with the outcome, Bartelme was asked.
“We’ve done other things, like helping out churches, or people who are in need. But this, this dots all the ‘I’s,” he said.