Sharon Kells will be the recipient of the NSDAR Community Service Award when Good Wife’s River Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution meets on Sept. 17, at 2 p.m. at the Weed Beach Paddle Hut in Darien. Last year, Kells spearheaded the clean-up of the Noroton River Cemetery on the Post Road in Darien. The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Community Service Award was established by the NSDAR as an opportunity for chapters and states to recognize individuals whose voluntary achievements exemplify outstanding service, contributions and dedication to his or her community. Although this award is presented to local residents, it is a DAR national award, approved and sent from the NSDAR headquarters in Washington, D.C. Good Wife’s River Regent, Katherine Love will present this award for 2017 to Kells.                                                                                               

How fortunate for Darien that Kells noticed a need for cemetery rehabilitation while walking her dog past Darien’s Noroton River Graveyard on the Post Road last year. Kells took the initiative and contacted two members of the Monuments and Ceremonies Commission for advice. She then called the first selectman and asked for permission to go into the cemetery to cut grass, rake leaves and clear debris. With permission granted, an arduous months long clean up funded by Kells ensued, and once accomplished, she planted grass and brought in flowers. Kells paid for these huge improvements herself, employing her own landscaper to do major clean up at the cemetery.

But this was only the beginning of a true labor of love. To heighten Darien residents’ awareness of these town cemeteries, Sharon tirelessly researched and wrote news articles about the history of the cemeteries and the early Darien settlers including Revolutionary War and War of 1812 veterans buried there. Her photos and articles inspired additional interested volunteers to come forward and this year, Kells was able to move on to Leeds Cemetery on Hoyt Street. Also honing his cemetery wall building skills was Sharon’s husband, Dominick D’Acunto.

Kells was asked to attend a Darien Monuments and Ceremonies Commission meeting and was appointed chairman of their newly formed Cemetery Committee. Sharon has an uncanny way of bringing diverse groups together and making things work. That’s exactly what happened with the cemeteries. She and committee vice chairman Tracy Root made an assessment of several Darien cemeteries and prioritized work needed. She requested town help in debris removal and received it, asked for funding as a line item in the Town budget and got it. She spoke to the cemetery neighbors and has their support and cooperation. Sharon’s next idea is to find volunteers to form a cemetery LLC so monetary donations can be accepted. Local garden centers have already offered their help.