Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust member Victoria Sansing, right, pays tribute to gravestone cleaners, from left, Lee Swift, Jim Lawson and Eileen Schmidt at West Cemetery in Litchfield on Wednesday. BZ photos

Hundreds of hours of labor in Litchfield’s two most historic cemeteries last spring and summer earned four dedicated volunteers recognition from the Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust.

The GLPT named Eileen Schmidt of East Litchfield, Jim Lawson and Lee Swift, both of Morris, and Linda Searles of Becket, Mass., the recipients of its annual Award of Distinction during a virtual annual meeting of the trust’s membership on Monday.

Schmidt and Swift began the job and were later joined by Lawson and Searles. They cleaned 650 gravestones, many of which are more than 200 years old, in East Cemetery and West Cemetery using a biologic cleaner known as D-2. The cleaning solution removed years of dirt and lichen on the stones without damaging them and left the inscriptions on the stones readable. So delicate was the work that it often required use of a toothbrush to clean the stones.

The volunteers typically worked four hours at a time and during the summer endured relentless heat and humidity. They plan to resume their effort in the spring.

In addition to cleaning graves, the volunteers have added memorial pages to, an ancestry website. The memorial pages provide information about the individuals buried beneath the gravestones that have been cleaned.

Image of two uncleaned headstones in front of several that were cleaned during the summer of 2020. Photo by John McKenna for

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