Wreaths Across Dunbarton warms veteran graves

  • Sons of the American Revolution color guard members (from left) John Glover, Doug Wood and Russ Cumbee fire a musket salute on the Dunbarton Common on Saturday. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Gen. John Stark re-enactor Richard Wright of Troy lays a wreath at the statue of Maj. Caleb Stark during a Wreaths Across Dunbarton ceremony on the Dunbarton Common on Saturday. The organization has raised close to $3,500 to keep the event going for years to come. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Chuck Frost Jr. places a Christmas wreath at the site of his father's snow-covered gravestone during a Wreaths Across Dunbarton event at Center Cemetery in Dunbarton on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Chuck Frost Jr. places a Christmas wreath at the gravestone of his ancestor and Revolutionary War soldier, John Bunten, during a Wreaths Across Dunbarton event at Center Cemetery in Dunbarton on Saturday. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Saturday, December 16, 2017

Under the watchful eye of General John Stark, a small group of volunteers woke up early Saturday morning to bring some holiday cheer to the veterans laid to rest in Dunbarton.

The inaugural effort by Wreaths Across Dunbarton, a local nonprofit that mimics the national Wreaths Across America campaign to lay holiday wreaths at veterans’ graves, kicked off with a ceremony of the famous New Hampshire general laying a wreath at the statue ofMaj. Caleb Stark, John Stark’s oldest son, in the town’s common area, followed by a musket salute.

From there, volunteers – and a few families whose loved ones are buried in Dunbarton’s cemeteries – fanned out to lay 192 wreaths on Dunbarton’s veteran graves and war monuments.

For Chuck Frost Jr. and his mother, Nancy Frost, it was a chance to reconnect with Charles Frost, father and husband, who is buried in Dunbarton Center Cemetery.

The family will tell you their roots run deep in the town and within the military. Also buried in Center Cemetery is Pvt. John Bunten, who served in the Revolutionary War. Nancy Frost is the sixth Bunten (her maiden name) to live in Dunbarton; Frost Jr. considers himself the seventh generation, even though he currently lives in Massachusetts.

Frost Jr.’s father served in the army in the Philippines during World War II. And like his great-great-great grandfather and his father before him, Frost Jr. also took up with the army, serving for 32 years in the reserves before retiring as a colonel.

“It feels good,” Frost Jr. said of honoring his family’s service, “knowing they contributed to the war efforts of the past.”

Even Richard Wright of Troy, who portrayed Stark, has a tie to Dunbarton, where the general lived with his wife, Elizabeth “Molly” Page. Wright’s family served with Stark at Bunker Hill, and he’s been portraying Stark since 1989.

Wright said he chose Stark because people said his temperament was similar to the general’s. “A cranky Yankee,” he said.

But even the gruff man standing in his Revolutionary War-era military blues, a Vietnam War veteran himself, had a soft spot that day.

“Well he’s my hero, and always has been,” Wright said of Stark.

Don Larsen, who spearheaded the event, said the community has rallied around the project – the $1,800 needed to put the project on had already been raised by August, but he wants enough money to continue to lay wreaths for years to come without worrying about finances.

As of Friday night – boosted by $1,000 worth of private donations and raffle tickets sold at a chili supper – Wreaths Across Dunbarton had raised about $3,500, Larsen said.

And with three local businesses, Capital Well, the Grappone Auto Group and Dunbarton Dental Care, having pledged their financial support to the project for the next five years, it’s likely Dunbarton’s resting veterans will be able to look forward to the holidays for years to come.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)