CUMBERLAND — For several decades, Resurrection Cemetery has offered a peaceful burial space for Catholic residents of northern Rhode Island, including those who served their country in the military during their lifetime. A glimpse of the cemetery grounds reveals the abundance of veterans laid to final rest in the quiet, rural space, as small American flags distinguish the graves of veterans from those whose freedoms they once protected.
However, in recent months, a new addition marks the landscape at Resurrection Cemetery. Toward the rear of the grounds, in a grassy space set against a backdrop of wooded hills, a five-foot high granite monument commemorates all veterans who participated in military service in Rhode Island and elsewhere during their lifetime.
The monument includes a large stone segment featuring a cross, the insignias of the five branches of the military and a prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel, patron saint of soldiers. Beside the main segment, two stone wings feature the words “All gave some, some gave all,” and surrounding the monument is a patio space for personal reflection. The monument, as well as a surrounding section of the cemetery reserved for the burial of veterans and their family members, will be formally dedicated by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin next week on Veterans Day.
“I’m very proud that it’s going to be there,” said Arthur Lurgio, former interim director of Catholic Cemeteries for the Diocese of Providence and initiator of the building of the new monument. “It’s something that the veteran groups have been looking for and I think it will make the veterans very proud to be buried there.”
Lurgio first discovered the need for a monument and burial space dedicated to veterans in the Cumberland area while serving in his previous post as director of the Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery located in Exeter. At the time, several veterans mentioned to him the difficulty of choosing a burial space in Rhode Island, as the Exeter cemetery presented a significant travel distance for loved ones living in the northern part of the state.
“One of the groups mentioned many years back that Exeter was too far away, so they were hoping that someday there would be some kind of monument at Resurrection Cemetery,” said Lurgio, who was concerned that veterans would have to choose between a burial in a dedicated veteran space and a burial close to loved ones.
Among the veterans he spoke with was Anthony DeQuattro, a retired Vietnam-era Marine who went on to become a founding member of Operation Stand Down Rhode Island, an organization dedicated to ending homelessness among U.S. veterans. DeQuattro, who lives in the Cumberland area, expressed his concerns to Lurgio while the latter was still serving as Veterans Memorial Cemetery director.
“He and I had a discussion years back that every cemetery should put aside an area for veterans, especially up north, because a lot of families don’t want to travel down to Exeter,” said DeQuattro. “It’s a trip for Rhode Island, that’s the reality, and they should be able to go visit their loved ones close by.”
Another concern was the limited availability of space in the Exeter cemetery, as well as restrictions on the burial of children with their veteran parents. “The other problem with Exeter is that there’s only so much land there, it’s going to run out,” said DeQuattro. “All cemeteries should have a section.”
When Lurgio was named interim director of Catholic Cemeteries in 2013 upon the retirement of former Director Father Anthony Verdelotti, he began looking for a way to ease the concerns of Rhode Island veterans and their families by opening up another burial space dedicated to veterans in a Catholic cemetery. Resurrection Cemetery, due for an expansion, presented an opportunity.
“It was the perfect cemetery to try this because it’s a fairly new cemetery,” said Lurgio. “With the expansion going on, it was the perfect time to pick a location for this monument and expand an area dedicated to all veterans.”
Lurgio initiated the preparation of the section during the summer of 2014, followed by the installation of the monument last October. The completed section, which takes up a sizable portion of the cemetery, is reserved for the burial of veterans and their family members. Unlike those buried at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery, veterans who wish to prepare a burial space at Resurrection Cemetery have the option of purchasing a family plot and being buried alongside their children as well as their spouses.
“In the years when I was at the Veterans Cemetery, that seemed to be a concern,” said Lurgio. “What would happen to my children who could not be buried there unless they were disabled? They would like to be buried together as a family. Of course, our Catholic cemeteries have always offered that, but this would be a way to do this where it was strictly for them.”
Anthony Carpinello, current director of Catholic Cemeteries for the Diocese of Providence, took over the project after Lurgio’s retirement and saw the completion of construction on the monument this year. According to Carpinello, the Catholic Cemeteries Office will present families with the option of having a veteran loved one’s name engraved on the monument or in a brick in the surrounding patio. This option will be available regardless of whether the veteran is buried in Resurrection Cemetery, something Carpinello hopes will make the monument into a space of reflection for all Rhode Island residents with veteran loved ones now deceased.
“We’re going to permit families to have their loved ones’ names placed on that monument, and with that we will then be able to provide them with a place of reflection and prayer,” he said. “So maybe if they can’t get to Exeter or Arlington, they can at least go right here to Resurrection and remember their loved one and pray and reflect.”
The official dedication ceremony for the Veterans Monument and burial space at Resurrection Cemetery will take place on Wednesday, November 11, at 10 a.m. All local veteran organizations are invited to attend and should contact the Catholic Cemeteries Office to advise cemetery personnel so proper arrangements can be made.
Those seeking further information about having a loved one’s name engraved on the monument may also contact the diocesan Catholic Cemeteries Office at 401-944-8383.