Cemetery Tour to Bring History to Life

October 11, 2018
City Councilor and historian Mark Bodanza looks over the gravestones in Leominster's Pine Grove Cemetery on Wednesday. He'll be leading a tour on Oct. 20. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE/JOHN LOVE Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

By Peter Jasinski

pjasinski@sentinel andenterprise.com

LEOMINSTER -- Next week’s Historical Society-sponsored tour through Pine Grove Cemetery may sound like a way to get into the Halloween spirit, but City Councilor and local historian Mark Bodanza says it’s anything but.

“I don’t find it in the least bit spooky,” he said. “To me, we’re all mortal and all suffer from a certain amount of anxiety relative to our mortality. But when I come to places like this, and I see and hear the stories of people who came before, life makes more sense to me.”

Bodanza will be hosting a walk through Pine Grove on the morning of Oct. 20, touring among the roughly 400 headstones that were placed between the 1740s and 1930s. It’s the city’s oldest official cemetery and, as Bodanza explained, it is filled with the stories of the Leominsterites who populated the city before its current residents.

Among the people on Bodanza’s tour are Peter Joslyn, one of Leominster’s earliest residents whose wife was said to have been killed by Native Americans, and Asa Johnson, a Revolutionary War sailor who would escape capture from the British, steal an enemy ship, and then use its bounty to pay his way through Harvard University.

“He was Leominster’s first lawyer and he was very eccentric,” said Bodanza. “He was an atheist. He ate all kinds of weird things like snakes and owls.”

The cemetery tour is free and open to the public. It will begin at 10 a.m. on Oct. 20 and guests are asked to meet at the cemetery gate closest to Carter Park. The tour will be preceded by a lecture being held at the Leominster Public Library on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. that will feature photos of some of the people buried at Pine Grove, as well as images of their homes and parts of the city from when they were alive.

“These are people that had all of the same struggles we have. Maybe technology is different now, the day-to-day life is different, but it was the same basic human struggle,” said Bodanza. “Many of these people’s families are long gone but this stuff deserves to be remembered.”

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