Residents work hard to clean up local cemetery

Posted 12/8/22

For years, the resting place of Revolutionary War hero, Capt. Richard Corwin, has been landlocked. A Town of Brookhaven-owned flag lot entrance to the cemetery on Chapel Avenue in Brookhaven Hamlet …

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Residents work hard to clean up local cemetery

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Brookhaven Village Association Board director Julia Villacara, BVA historian Marty Van Lith, Richard and Tom Corwin, and DAR historian and librarian Laura Miller.
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A DAR volunteer cleans the headstones.
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Volunteers get busy revitalizing the cemetery.

For years, the resting place of Revolutionary War hero, Capt. Richard Corwin, has been landlocked. A Town of Brookhaven-owned flag lot entrance to the cemetery on Chapel Avenue in Brookhaven Hamlet was blocked by an adjacent homeowner. The cemetery entrance was further complicated by an error in subdividing a property in between the lot and cemetery, and a botched title. While the family cemetery goes to ruin, the legal matters rest with the Town of Brookhaven and attorneys, much to the displeasure of Capt. Corwin’s descendants, Tom and Richard Corwin, Hamlet residents, the Brookhaven Village Association (BVA), Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and the Fire Place History Club, whose members diligently maintained the cemetery and the headstones for decades. 

Serendipitously, two women who became friendly through their church, got to chatting one day: one woman, a leader of the chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the other woman, a recent Brookhaven Hamlet homeowner with an overgrown, odd little cemetery in her backyard. 

Dr. Joan Nathan, NYDAR director, District X&XI Col. Josiah Smith Honorary Regent, arranged for her chapter members to document the Corwin Cemetery with the homeowners, Alexandra and William McEvoy, who have access to the cemetery from their home on Beaverbrook Drive. After the visit, DAR chapter historian and librarian, Laura Miller, posted photos on Facebook that night with an urgent plea asking for any Boy Scout troops to clean up the cemetery. 

And serendipity struck again. “I was mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw my friend Laura’s post with photos. I leapt off the sofa knowing the legal quagmire and history of the cemetery. I saw an opportunity,” said Julia Villacara, Brookhaven Village Association Board director. “I guess Facebook isn’t that bad after all.” 

“The BVA Quality of Life Committee was launching a new initiative of community service projects called Give Thanks by Giving Back, in November,” described Villacara, chair of the committee. “The Corwin Cemetery is a place that hasn’t seen any love in many years and is also a spot of historical curiosity. It would make a great cleanup project. And perhaps we can inch forward a resolution for another access point to the cemetery in the process.” 

Villacara contacted her longtime friend Miller, and got in touch with Alexandra McEvoy, her neighbor on Beaverbrook Drive, and arranged for the cemetery to be cleaned as a community project. DAR volunteers, hamlet residents along with Tom, Richard and Peter Corwin, joined in on a cold November Saturday morning to scrub the headstones, rake and bag the accumulated leaves, and cut down the overgrowth.

“It’s uplifting to see people in and outside of our hamlet unite in the purpose and passion of history and its preservation. To protect and revere the memory of those that shaped our country is an inspiration. And to see children also connect with civic engagement and an interest in this history is so meaningful,” said project coordinator Villacara. 

The last time the Corwins had been in the cemetery was 2018 when the brothers, along with concerned residents Diane and Gary Zanazzi and BVA historian Marty Van Lith, hosted town councilman Michael LoGuercio and his aides on a tour of the cemetery and its legal issues.


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