New Canaan teen hatches plan to save cemeteries in his community
One New Canaan teenager has taken on a unique project to honor those who have passed away.
News 12 Connecticut's Jeff Derderian met with 16-year-old Leo Mikkola-Patel at Canoe Hill Cemetery in New Canaan, which is in need of numerous repairs.
“I noticed that a lot of the cemeteries were in bad shape,” said Mikkola-Patel.
The grass has overgrown, tombstones are broken and walls are cracking. Which is why Mikkola-Patel came up with a plan to put some attention on 12 cemeteries across his community.
“It’s a really bad image for our town,” said Mikkola-Patel. “Everything is well maintained.”
Mikkola-Patel lives next to Canoe Hill and used to play there with his brother. He believes the condition that it’s in now is disrespectful and a dishonor to the people who have chosen it as their final resting place.
After working on a community project involving cemeteries, this high-schooler went to work. He identified, visited and cataloged all kinds of cemeteries that need attention in New Canaan.
He even went before the town council and finance board to pitch his plan and ask for a permanent funding budget to take care of the 12 cemeteries in town.
It’s especially personal when he sees a military marker on an unkempt gravestone – his great grandfather served this country and his brother is serving now. Mikkola-Patel believes seeing any military grave be neglected is no way to honor veterans.
He even tracked down a local commander of veterans of foreign wars at a parade to share his idea.
“I talked to him after he gave a great speech…I invited him to come to the town council meeting,” said Mikkola-Patel.
His goal for now is to get everything fixed up, starting with landscaping. He sees this just as the right thing to do.
Mikkola-Patel said the idea of having volunteers taking care of cemeteries wasn’t sustainable, which is why he decided to do all of this work. So far, it looks like the town will go along with dedicating the necessary funds.
It's estimated it will cost the town about $25,000 per year to maintain the 12 cemeteries identified once the initial clean-up is completed.