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A man and his mission


Dryden man, 78, sees neglect and decides to do something about it


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Bruce Boyd, 78, kneels near gravesite at South Dryden Pioneer Cemetery. Boyd feels a kinship with the Dryden area, where his mother was born in 1888. photo by Tom Wearing.

September 26, 2007
DRYDEN TWP. — Resident Bruce Boyd gives an entirely new meaning to working the "graveyard shift."

Rather than clocking into work around midnight, the 78-year-old retiree has been rising early to finish his job of choice—cleaning up the grounds at the South Dryden Pioneer Cemetery.

While Boyd describes the cemetery grounds as aesthetically pleasing, he feels those buried at the site deserve better treatment than what they've been getting. Most notably, he says, the overgrown weeds and scattered debris found on the property need to be removed.

Located at the southeast corner of Rochester and Casey roads, the cemetery's occupants are among the area's earliest settlers. The majority of tombstones date back to the 1800s, with many of the dates of death preceding the Civil War.

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Boyd, who moved to the area from Pontiac about two years ago, recently discovered the existence of the cemetery. During his initial walk-through, he found the grounds to be beautiful but subject to neglect.

"It looked like no one had been caring for it," says Boyd, whose mother was born in Dryden in 1888. "These are some of the oldest graves I've ever seen. Out of respect, I felt I had to do something."

What he has been doing on recent mornings is raking, picking up and sorting out leaves, limbs and other debris, and generally cleaning up around the hallowed grounds.

"It was like walking into a dump when I first saw it," Boyd says. "It upsets me that things like this are allowed to happen. These people are gone but they deserve our respect.

"This is a beautiful cemetery and a wonderful final resting place for the people buried here. Their lives should not be forgotten."

Boyd admits that he finds personal peace and solitude when walking through cemeteries. He also has a penchant for reading the inscriptions on headstones.

"I like to read them," he says. "There are so many beautiful epithets. Some of them are very funny. One of my favorites read: "I told you I was sick.'"

Having served in the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, Boyd treats life with a sense of responsibility and duty—to himself and others.

"I've had a full life, a wonderful family and God's been good to me," says Boyd. "I don't take anything for granted anymore. When I go to bed at night, I have great peace of mind. And when I can do something like this (cemetery cleanup), it gives me a good feeling in my heart."

Boyd has been married to wife, Doris, for 59 years. The couple has three surviving children (one deceased), seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Boyd adds that he likes to keep busy and is interested in finding more side jobs to keep him occupied.

"I don't like sitting on my butt doing nothing," he says. "I eat right and I walk about two to three miles a day. I like to stay active."

Editor's note: Dryden Township Supervisor Tina Papineau applauded Boyd's volunteerism, while making no excuses for neglect at any of the township's cemeteries.

Papineau said DPW workers typically mow the grass around township cemeteries, but are not responsible for clearing brush or debris. She added that non-violent offenders from the Lapeer County Jail are sometimes available to clear debris from cemetery sites.

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