Cemetery volunteer honored
By Adam Leech
PORTSMOUTH -- Her contribution to the city doesn't make headlines and her work that sits in the library won't ever make the best-seller list or win an award, but Louise Tallman's vital role in preserving Portsmouth history was honored on Tuesday by the city.
Tallman has spent the better part of three decades volunteering her time to research gravestones in all the major city cemeteries, as well as the private ones. Her work has led to the publication of comprehensive indexes of each cemetery, providing a reference for scholars and the general public.
Dozens attended Tuesday's ceremony in the Point of Graves Cemetery to honor Tallman and thank her for her selfless contribution and hard work.
"It's only appropriate to note that we're here under very happy circumstances," said Glen Knoblock, a historic gravestone authority and author of "Portsmouth Cemeteries." "It's not often you get to meet in a cemetery during the day to talk about someone who's still with us."
Knoblock said Tallman was "the linchpin" in cemetery preservation efforts in Portsmouth and Rye. The outstanding part of her work, according to Knoblock, was how democratic she was. Recording and preserving gravestones and tombs of famous cityfolk is a no-brainer, he said, but most wouldn't go out of their way for the common person.
"That takes a lot of fortitude. That's when many people will lose interest and sort of fall by the wayside," he said. "But not Louise, she has persevered in her work for many years."
Tallman, a member of the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Cemetery Committee, gave thousands of hours, and some of her own money, to restore and maintain gravestones. Knoblock said she often would get on her hands and knees and dig as part of her field research.
Tallman said she gave her time freely because "it's fun."
"Meetings don't do it for me. I need a project," said Tallman. "The pleasure for me is knowing that if you put the data on a library shelf, you know it is used. Your history is your people of the town."
Most of the cemeteries were in a state of disrepair not long ago, the grass often being cut once a year by some volunteers, according to committee member Dick Adams. The city has invested a great deal in its history, he said.
Mayor Steve Marchand said what Tallman has done is invaluable for a city that changes so rapidly and continues to invite new people to the community.
"One of the important parts of having all that turnover is, just because you're new to that community doesn't mean you shouldn't have the opportunity to learn and appreciate the history that makes this community what it is," said Marchand.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Anyone interested in learning more about the city’s historical cemeteries or joining the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Cemetery Committee can call 436-5096 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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