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Sons of American Revolution, DAR will honor Theresa man who revitalized Kelsey Bridge Cemetery

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THERESA — The Sons of the American Revolution will host a ceremony here Oct. 2 to honor a man who brought new life to the Kelsey Bridge Cemetery.

Richard L. Perrigo, who lives across from the cemetery — on County Route 46 along the banks of Indian River — undertook a project at the cemetery in the spring in honor of Valerie M. Irvine, Theresa, who worked for Mr. Perrigo and his wife, Dorothy A.

Ms. Irvine suggested that she and Mr. Perrigo clean up the cemetery, which dates to the early 1800s. But Ms. Irvine, who suffered from lupus, died on Easter Sunday.

The cemetery was a tangle of broken and toppled headstones. Many were unreadable, covered with moss and lichen. But town workers mowed it, dodging the obstacles as best they could.

Mr. Perrigo went to work cutting back brush and fixing and cleaning broken headstones. His work caught the attention of James M. Eagan, Canandaigua, president of the Rochester chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Mr. Eagan’s wife, Roberta D. Calhoun-Eagan, is the daughter of Anson John Calhoun, who was a descendent of Chauncey Calhoun, one of the early settlers of Watertown. Her father left Watertown in the early 1950s.

The couple often stop by Kelsey Bridge Cemetery, where Mrs. Calhoun-Eagan’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, Urial Evans, is buried. He died in August 1825 at 73. When he was 34 years old, Evans served as the Hinsdale, N.H., delegate to the New Hampshire convention for the Federal Constitution.

Mr. Eagan said that when he came upon the cemetery this summer, the first time since Mr. Perrigo’s project began, he was amazed.

“My first reaction was that it looked like a corner of Arlington National Cemetery,” Mr. Eagan said. “I was stunned. The sun was shining and reflecting off the stones. Knowing what the place used to look like, I was simply astonished.”

After talking to Mr. Perrigo, who Mr. Eagan described as “very unassuming,” he went back to Rochester to his chapter and board of managers of the Sons of the American Revolution in Rochester. Mr. Eagan, a retired New York state trooper and former judge for the town of Newport, Herkimer County, serves as president of the chapter.

“I said ‘We have to honor this man,’” Mr. Eagan said.

After seeing pictures of the revitalized cemetery, the board voted unanimously to do so.

Mr. Eagan also contacted the Syracuse chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution and its Oriskany Battle Chapter, Oneida County. Both organizations also plan to send representatives. Mr. Eagan said.

“We felt it not only appropriate to honor Mr. Perrigo, but also to rededicate the cemetery to all those who are there, both military and civilians,” Mr. Eagan said. “These are the pioneers — the people who endured.”

Mr. Perrigo will receive the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Bronze Good Citizenship Medal. It was first authorized in 1895 and recognizes individuals whose achievements are noteworthy in their school, community or state.

Besides speeches by officials, the ceremony will feature a wreath-laying and a display of flags from the Revolutionary War. At least one veteran from that war is buried in the cemetery. Some members of the Sons of the American Revolution will be dressed in Revolution War-period clothing.

Mr. Eagan added that Anne Davis, regent of the LeRay de Chaumont Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, also will speak at the ceremony.

“We just want to say ‘Well done and thank you’ to Mr. Perrigo for what he’s done,” Mr. Eagan said.

the details
WHAT: Ceremony hosted by the Sons of the American Revolution to honor Richard L. Perrigo’s work at Kelsey Bridge Cemetery, Route 46, Theresa. The ceremony also will pay tribute to those buried at the cemetery.
WHEN/WHERE: 1 p.m. Oct. 2 at the cemetery. The public is invited.
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