Remembering Emerson Clough
The recent death of Emerson Clough brings to mind an individual who lived life to the fullest for most of his 95+ years. Only in the last few years when age began to take its toll did he experience some limitations on a life filled with activity and accomplishment.
From a World War II military experience that covered a great deal of the world’s geography to earning a living by being able to do a variety of jobs to raising a family, he always seemed to be busy and successfully meeting the many challenges of life with few complaints.
For years, he was a “regular” at the Mallard Mart, Bethel’s informal “think tank,” where many of the local issues were “chewed over” and decisive opinions on many topics rendered.
I never knew him very well until the mid-1990s when, as chair of the Bethel Bicentennial Committee, I led the Committee that took on the project of transforming the town’s historic Woodland Cemetery back to its former glory as a garden graveyard. One of the first persons who came forward to help in this noble cause was Emerson Clough, who had relatives buried there. As we revived the governing board and began the restoration process, Emerson assumed the role of Sexton and led the controversial effort of removing the trees that had begun to fall on the gravestones. It was an incredible job to cut these trees without damaging any stones, but Emerson worked closely with some very talented woodsmen and the cemetery began the long process of becoming a haven for scores of flowering shrubs and lilies. He also worked hard in improving the travel lanes within the cemetery and raised countless markers that had fallen or were leaning.
Additionally, it was from Emerson that I learned of the existence of a “pest house” that once stood across from the cemetery. Anyone with a contagious disease was placed there away from the village. If one recovered, he or she moved back to their home. If not, their body was moved to the cemetery for burial.
Woodland Cemetery is still a work in progress. Every year more shrubs and flowers are planted and the beauty of that “resting place” is enhanced. Emerson played a major role in making this transformation possible. Every time I visit this special spot where some of my forebears lie and where so many of Bethel’s leading luminaries take their eternal rest, my thoughts return to Emerson and how much he cared.