by Hilda M. Fife
At an early meeting of the Maine League of Historical Societies and Museums in 1964 or 1965. A request was made for suggestions as to how the newly formed state organization could best help its members, both individuals and societies. I wrote to the president about the neglect of old cemeteries (usually of families that had died out or moved to another part of the country) that troubled me. To my astonishment, the letter appeared in the first issue of the quarterly publication of the Maine League.
In 1967 I was asked to speak on the subject at the annual meeting of the Maine League. The result was a vote to sponsor an organization to encourage the preservation and care of old graveyards in Maine. And HMF was to get it started! I spent some months mulling over the project and planning how to start it. Especially helpful was the advice given me freely when I asked help from Leon Dean of the faculty of the University of Vermont, who had started the Vermont Old Cemetery Association in 1958. I wrote what became the first MOCA newsletter, scheduled to appear in the spring of 1968.
Unfortunately, there was a year’s delay, for the first copy, sent to an amateur printers was lost somewhere along the way. So I had to do another one later in the year and seek another source of publication. ( I was still teaching full time on the faculty of the University of Maine and had little time for “extracurricular activities”.) Fortunately, the new chairman of the Department of History was interested, and under its helpful sponsorship (not financial, I must add), the first quarterly MOCA Newsletter appeared, in May of 1969. My life has never been the same since then!
I had made up a mailing list of all the member societies of the Maine League, of all the Maine chapters of DAR, of the larger libraries in the state, of several Maine magazines and newspapers, of chapters of the Grange, of leaders of 4-H clubs, and those of the Boy Scouts, of members of the Legislature, and of individuals who I thought might be interested. Within a few days I began to get replies - with items for future Newsletters, with local problems and with dues. It was just as well that I was about to retire, for I could never have handled my mail had I been teaching full time.
I paid the expenses of the first MOCA Newsletter (as I recall that came to $7.50 for the printing and mailing at the University). Later issues, of course, were paid from the dues. The present bill for printing and mailing (still done at the University) comes to about $250 - for about 1200 copies (1100 plus members and extra copies to use for publicity)/ We are glad to pay for such service. The Newsletter I am enclosing (Vol. I and II and a few miscellaneous single copies) will provide further details of the establishing of the Maine Old Cemetery Association (MOCA).”