Volunteers help the State Veterans Cemetery celebrate its 25th birthday

  • Meg Garabrant of Concord uses a brush to clean off the markers at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen on Sunday, November 6, 2022 during the annual cleanup. Garabrant does the work to honor her father and nephew. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Meg Garabrant of Concord uses a brush to clean off the markers at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen on Nov. 6 during the annual cleanup. Garabrant does the work to honor her father and nephew. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Meg Garabrant of Concord uses a brush to clean off the markers at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen on Sunday, November 6, 2022 during the annual cleanup. Garabrant does the work to honor her father and nephew. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Amara Hinkley, 1, helps her mother, Samantha brush some of the markers at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen on Sunday, November 6, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Amara Hinkley, 1, helps her mother, Samantha, brush some of the markers at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery.

  • Above: Volunteers rake and clean up leaves at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen on Nov. 6. GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff

  • Left: Veteran Scott Suchovsky uses a leaf blower to clean up the monuments at the New Hampshire Veterans Home on Nov. 6. GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 11/12/2022 4:00:24 PM

Meg Garabrant swooshed across the faded and stained granite stone, using soap and water and a resilient scrubber to bring a soldier’s identity back to life.

With each swoosh, in circular and up-and-down movements, letters came back, some pretty clear, others worn by time, never to return to full visibility.

Finally, after Garabrant had scrubbed the gravestone like an unclean pan on Thanksgiving night, we learned that William L. Koutroubas lived in Merrimack, served in the Navy during World War II and died eight years ago at the age of 88.

His facelift, part of an overall clean-up day on Nov. 6 at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery, occurred as part of a double-themed month, linking the cemetery’s 25th anniversary with Veterans Day.

An official ceremony was held Thursday, the day before Veterans Day, at the maintenance building, after which American flags were placed at all graves.

Garabrant, a New Hampshire native and Concord resident, knew all about the cemetery’s silver anniversary. Her late dad served in the military.

And her nephew was killed in action in Afghanistan. She said simply, “KIA.”

“Yes, I was aware of that,” Garabrant said, referring to the cemetery’s 25th birthday. “We do a lot of volunteering here.”

Tim Hinkley had similar feelings. He served in the Army National Guard from 2012 to 2015 and lived in Concord for three years before moving to Claremont with his wife.

He served with someone, a friend, who’s buried at the cemetery. The soldier took his own life.

“Yes, I have friends that are buried here,” Hinkley said. “I come to visit regularly.”

He was part of the clean-up day last weekend. He wanted to be there, and not just for his war buddy. Both of his grandfathers served in the Navy, and their brothers were in the Marines. Family members served during World War II and Vietnam. He knew the 25th anniversary was around the corner.

“This is a big family thing,” Hinkley said. “I’m sure it means a lot to the families, and it means a lot to me. I learned that this stuff is going on here, and I wanted to be part of it.”

He scrubbed and swooshed. He used a plastic putty knife to fight any stubborn algae that survived. His wife, Samantha Hinkley, and daughter Amara, 1, scrubbed and eventually met a soldier named Hubert T. Carroll, a Navy man during World War II who died nine years ago.

“My husband is a veteran,” Samantha said, “and we always try to give back to the cemetery as much as possible.”

Bill Downs of Farmington knows more about the cemetery than most, and he certainly knew it had planned to combine the birthday milestone with Veterans Day.

Downs was slender, with a gravelly voice and a black vest adorned with an eagle, POW-MIA patches, medals and the words “Rolling Thunder” stitched across his shoulders.

The motorcycle club has long sponsored and participated in any event that shows appreciation for veterans. Downs remembers the birth of the cemetery in 1967, when it was mostly flat grassy fields over the 104 acres.

“It had the Vietnam memorial, and then it just kept growing,” Downs said. “A lot of people didn’t know the cemetery was here. I had an idea in the ’90s that it was going to turn out amazing.”

Downs helped build the brick Memorial Walkway. He said it took 10 years to finish. Under the cover of trees, it snakes through granite and polished marble tributes, with the replica of the soldiers planting the American flag at Iwo Jima in 1945 standing out.

The Memorial Walkway sits near the main entrance. It was one of two spots where volunteers focused their attention. There, leaves were raked and piled onto blue tarpaulins. Leaf blowers roared.

The leaves were directed to the curb, to the noisy leaf mulcher’s waiting teeth. Lauren Kloyz of Milbury, Mass., a 21-year-old student at Plymouth State University, raked and represented the younger generation well. She knew the 25th birthday was approaching.

“I have an appreciation for that,” Kloyz said. “Both my grandfathers served in Vietnam. I have one of my grandfather’s jackets that he wore, with camo and badges. It’s like a family heirloom.”

While the leaves were raked, the headstones, gray and white, stood on the other side of the cemetery, on a massive stretch of manicured grass that seemed to go on forever.

The volunteers there cleaned granite, including Garabrant, and the Hinkleys – Samantha, Tim and Amara. They brightened the faded white stone. They brought names from the past back to life. They knew the Granite State Veterans Cemetery had a birthday approaching.

“We have family here,” Garabrant said. “But this is also a way to give back to so many others, honor what they all did for us.”


Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.



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