Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Eagle Scout Project Restores Cemetery

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Eagle Scout Project Restores Cemetery

Article excerpt

Thomas Eckerson Perry graced the Earth for 28 days in 1843.

In death, dignity eluded him -- until a gangly, sandy-haired Boy Scout came along.

Baby Thomas' resting place at Dumont's Old North Reformed Church lies outside the chain-link fence enclosing the church's graveyard, 3 feet from the Madison Avenue sidewalk. Shrubbery had all but obscured the marker. It was no secret there was someone buried in the bushes.

"We always wondered why that guy -- we didn't know it was a baby - - was outside the fence," said the church secretary, Lisa Hayes. "When I was at Dumont High School, we'd walk up Madison Avenue to go out to lunch and pass it, and feel kind of creepy about it."

Enter Sal Maurice Jr. of Boy Scout Troop 64.

The 17-year-old Dumont High School senior made the graveyard his Eagle Scout project. Starting last fall, Sal led a team of 30 volunteers who straightened headstones, put down grass seed and otherwise tidied the cemetery at the borough's busiest crossroads.

A large part of the work involved the curious marker outside the fence.

With help from his dad, a mason, Sal and others pulled out the bushes that overwhelmed the grave.

They uncovered a brownstone slab in pristine condition.

Unlike most markers in the ancient graveyard, the engraving was easily readable:

IN Memory of Thomas Eckerson,

Son of

David & Catharine Perry, who

departed this life

October 19th 1843,

aged 28 days.

And underneath, words that tell of a family's joy, then sorrow:

Alas, how chang'd that lovely flower

Which bloom'd and cheer'd our hearts

Fair fleeting comfort of an hour

How soon we'ar call'd to part

For Sal, reading the grave marker was sobering.

"He probably died of some sickness, probably caught something," the Boy Scout said. "He had a short life -- which I don't like."

According to genealogical records, Thomas was the youngest of David and Catharine Perry's four children. …

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