Super Senior: Bruce Spaulding

Published: Oct. 13, 2022 at 5:11 PM EDT
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SWANTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Saint Mary’s Cemetery is the final resting place for many souls in Swanton. It’s also where Bruce Spaulding spends much of his time cleaning the gravesites of veterans.

“I like to clean ‘em, because I like them to be recognized,” Spaulding said. For the last five years, the Army veteran has been on a mission to take off years of grime from the granite and marble memorials. “My goal is to clean all the veteran’s stones in Franklin County.”

The 80-year-old has tended to over 500 stones in cemeteries throughout the area. “Most of them are black, like that, the ones we’re going to do,” Spaulding said.

Up first is a marker for David Edward Smith, a World War II Navy veteran. In a sense, his stone is given a rebirth.

Spaulding works mostly alone, but on this day he’s getting a hand from high school students at nearby Missisquoi Valley Union High School. “Nice to meet you, nice to meet everybody, I’m so thankful that you’ve come to help,” he tells the students.

But first, they learn a little history. “This gentleman was in the army,” Spaulding explained to the students. “He was in World War II... ...And he made us free, that’s why I’m doing this.”

The juniors and seniors then get to work. Arrianna Fortin, an MVU junior, is busy weed-whacking. “People that served, I think, deserve a lot, and I don’t think that people recognize them enough. So, to be out here cleaning their graves, it just feels good,” Fortin said.

“PFC, U.S. Air Force, World War II. 1920 to 1984,” said MVU junior Lucas Rocheleau, reading from a headstone.

The students clean for just over an hour, but teacher Jay Barney says they’ll remember this for a long time. “These are all graves that we have family members that are resting here,” Barney said.

“I just feel I owe the country and I owe a little cleaning of gravestones. That’s why I do it,” Spaulding said. “My goal is to clean all the veterans’ stones in Franklin County. That’s what I want to see done. This cemetery is almost done. Thanks to you guys today, we probably got 10 or 15 in this cemetery.”

And with that, the students return to class. “I appreciate what you did today. It means a lot to me,” Spaulding told the group before returning to clean another veteran’s stone.

“I love doing this and I hope to do it for another 10 years,” he said. Bringing back clarity to those who are no longer with us. “These are people who lived in my community who worked hard for our country.”