Saugus man to be honored for restoring Civil War graves at Riverside Cemetery

Vietnam veteran Gordon Shepard on the steps to the Civil War memorial in Riverside Cemetery which he restored to its original condition. (FILE PHOTO | Spenser R. Hasak)

SAUGUS — Gordon Shepard has spent more than a decade serving those who have served. Now, he’s being recognized by a national Civil War descendents organization for his work. 

Shepard, a U.S. Army veteran, completed a restoration project on the Civil War section of the cemetery in April. 

The Vietnam veteran raised $12,000 and spent the past five years working on the project. 

The plaques in the Civil War section were mismatched. Some were taller than others and almost all of them differed in style and font. Shepard found one that was legible and used a combination of the different styles, and used the stone as a model when he recreated the markers.

He found an old picture of the monument from the historical society and learned that two small ledges once held stacks of cannonballs. He reached out to another veteran volunteer, Nick Milo, who helped him replace them with stacks of granite balls.

He completed the restoration just in time for it to be viewed by crowds of spectators on Memorial Day.

This isn’t the first project he has taken on. Shepard estimates over the past 12 years, more than $40,000 has been donated to help fund various restoration and improvement projects.

“It’s been a long time doing this, but it’s worth every second,” said Shepard, 72. “Especially when a family member comes down here and realizes their loved one was not sacrificed for nothing.”

The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War will perform a ceremony of rededication at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28 at the General Edward Winslow Post No. 95, Grand Army of the Republic burial plot in Riverside Cemetery. 

It will be performed by descendants of Union Civil War Soldiers and Sailors in Civil War era uniforms. The ceremony is based on an original Grand Army of the Republic dedication ceremony and will include a black powder musket salute and the sounding of “Taps” by a uniformed bugler. 

During the event, Shepard will be presented a Founder’s Award, which is given annually to a group or individual who performs outstanding service in the memory of Union Civil War Soldiers by National Commander-in-chief Edward J. Norris. This year, Shepard is the sole recipient. A permanent plaque with his name will be displayed in the National Headquarters of the SUVCW.

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