NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk’s historic cemeteries made it through Tropical Storm Isaias with little damage to their hand-carved gravestones, Mike Mushak said.
Mushak, a Planning Commissioner and President of Tuliptree Site Design, has been out and about, cleaning up after the storm, taking photos as he goes, documenting the “devastating widespread tree and utility damage in our area.”
The cemeteries were a natural stop as he and his husband, Redevelopment Agency Commissioner David Westmoreland, have been donating their time for 15 years to restore them, working with the City of Norwalk, the Norwalk Historical Society, Rowayton Historical Society, St Paul’s on the Green, and the Boy Scouts, he said.
Two gravestones “that we know of” were damaged “out of thousands, which will be assessed for potential repairs after the cleanup is done,” he wrote. “However, there was of course widespread tree damage including huge uprooted trees (several in Pine Island Cemetery next to Mathews Park, one in Mill Hill Cemetery on the corner of East Wall and East Ave, and one in our churchyard cemetery at St. Paul’s on the Green.)”
He continued, “Somehow the trees seemed to know to fall the right way to avoid the stones, like a miracle actually! (We were imagining the spirits all rising to push the trees to fall in the perfect spots to save the eternal resting places of their former embodied selves.)”
“We examined the craters left by the uprooted trunks from this latest storm and didn’t see any evidence of disturbed remains, which does happen sometimes. Read on.
“After Hurricane Sandy in 2012 a toppled tree at Pine Island brought up a pair of leather shoes belonging to a Mr. John Byxbee who died and was buried in 1842. The leather was preserved because it was “tanned” with oak bark which was a big industry in CT in the 19th century, along with shoemaking. A Norwalk archaeologist and friend (Holly Cuzzone) documented them, cleaned and repaired them with appropriate techniques, and put them in a bag with a note about what happened, before we had the Boy Scouts rebury them at Mr. Byxbee’s grave while they were doing storm repairs and restoration on the cemetery as part of an Eagle Scout project.
“We gathered a crowd at that graveside event in October of 2012, and all present could feel Mr. Byxbee’s joyful spirit as his remains were being reunited with his shoes. It was quite an emotional and memorable experience for all of us!”