John Falavolito said the hum of weed wackers slicing through brush and waist-high grass might just "wake the dead."
Falavolito, a longtime Forest Grove firefighter, and others from the Robinson-based fire company on Thursday night took to the Forest Grove Cemetery with rakes and lawnmowers, sprucing up the century-old graveyard.
Forest Grove firefighters adopted the cemetery weeks ago, when they decided to offer up their time to restore the overgrown plot of land off Forest Grove Road.
"This is a part of the Forest Grove community and it's a crime that it got so bad," said fire company president Ed Ritter, standing near a cluster of graves from the 1930s.
The small cemetery bears Civil War-era graves and others from as recent as 2002. Faded American flags are planted near the tombstones of long-deceased veterans. Others have toppled over from disrepair, their markings faded by weather.
Volunteers began work on the cemetery one week ago. The neighboring Groveton fire department will assist in repairing some of the tombstones.
"It was a disaster," said firefighter Derek Zombeck of the cemetery's condition. "There are veterans buried here. They deserve better."
The fire company has been unable to locate the owner of the cemetery, though they believe it once surrounded a church that burned down in the early 1900s. Today, vacant space remains near the center of the yard. Rumor has it the chapel's stainglass windows are still buried beneath, Ritter said.
"But who knows," Ritter said. "We'll never find it now."
Fire chief Andy Lizanich said firefighters aged "16 to 88" are taking part in the service project.
"Right now the work is mostly weed wackers and taking out fallen branches," Lizanich said. "It's just something we can do for the community."