‘Crazy cemetery lady’ improves gravesites stone by stone
DENMARK, New York (WWNY) - Denmark’s Hillside Cemetery, like many cemeteries in the north country, is in rough shape. But Allyson Stephenson is here to fix that — one stone at a time.
“I am cleaning Ruth, the wife of Samuel Porter? Yup. Samuel Porter,” said Stephenson, who calls herself “the crazy cemetery lady.”
For the past three summers, she’s been cleaning entire cemeteries. The Felts Mills and old Theresa cemeteries are already transformed, and now she’s come to Denmark.
“I try to find cemeteries in need,” she said, “and this place has nobody. There’s stones piled up there, there’s a stone on the ground there, there’s broken stones under the tree. I go where I’m needed, and this place needs help.”
She started during the pandemic, as something fun and productive to do.
She decided to post her cleanings on TikTok, telling the stories of those buried and educating viewers on how to clean their local graves, too.
“I think I’ve got 42,000 followers, but to me it’s not about me, it’s about them,” she said. “Who was Samuel? Who was Ruth?”
She does this all at her own expense. It’s hard labor and she doesn’t know these people, but it’s worth it.
“I want to make sure they’re remembered, not lost to time,” Stephenson said. “There’s a lot of people in this cemetery, they all have a story. there’s Revolutionary War veterans, there’s minutemen, Civil War veterans — there’s a lot.
If you’re feeling inspired, Stephenson says she will gladly take any help.
“If you want to contact me, I’ll come help you, I’ll show you. If you want to help, I’ll take all the help I can get. Can you imagine what some of these old cemeteries would look like? There wouldn’t be derelict cemeteries anymore. They’d all be nice and remembered and readable.”
She says she’s learned a lot from these graves: history, cleaning tricks, but most importantly, the value of community service.
“These people are proof that no one makes it out of this world alive,” she said, “so do stuff for others. Anybody can do it. Find something to do for others.”
You can email Stephenson at email@example.com. You can also contact her through the Tug Hill Cemetery Hunters Facebook page.
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