BURRILLVILLE – Betty and Carlo Mencucci have made it their mission to preserve and restore Burrillville’s cemeteries and this month, their dedication was recognized well beyond town borders.
The husband and wife team received the Antoinette F. Dowling Volunteer Service Award at the 11th annual Rhody Awards for Historic Preservation, held on Sunday, Oct. 6, at the Aldrich Mansion in Warwick.
The celebration recognizes historic architecture, local heroes and special places across Rhode Island, honoring the contributions of individuals. The Mencuccis were among just nine award recipients at the 2019 ceremony.
“Each year, Preserve Rhode Island partners with the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission to honor the people who make a difference by protecting Rhode Island’s historic places,” noted a release on the awards.
The couple first joined the Burrillville Historical & Preservation Society in 1999, and soon rose to leadership positions.
In 2007, they launched a new project focused on Burrillville’s historic cemeteries, and began locating gravestones, documenting inscriptions and assessing conditions.
Betty and Carlo then joined the Association for Graveyard Studies, an international organization that holds annual conferences, and runs workshops on topics such as grave restoration.
The Mencuccis have since worked their way through graveyards across Burrillville, bringing their professional restoration skills to more than three dozen different cemeteries.
“In the process of conserving nearly 400 historic gravestones across Burrillville, the Mencuccis built relationships with cemetery owners and neighbors, promoting stewardship,” noted a release from RIHPHC. “Now they are in demand for workshops across Rhode Island.”
“There’s 133 cemeteries in the town of Burrillville, and our goal is to fix all of them,” said Betty on Wednesday, Oct. 23, while receiving a citation honoring their work from the Burrillville Town Council.
Betty pointed to the couple’s recent work restoring 14-foot-tall monuments in the Sayles-Cook Cemetery, a small graveyard overlooking the Pascoag River that holds plots belonging to members of the Sayles family.
“That was a big accomplishment,” she said, thanking Town Manager Michael Wood for his help in establishing a dirt road to access the small plot.
“It’s a retirement hobby and we just like it,” Betty said.