Renby Fernald, a senior at the Middlesex School, is working towards achieving his Eagle Scout badge-the highest rank in Boy Scouts.
For his community service project, the largest component in qualifying for Eagle Scout rank, Renby documented all the graves in Bedford’s two cemeteries.
Renby used the mobile app BillionGraves to document all the graves throughout the Shawsheen Cemetery and the Old Burying Ground on Springs Road. The process began with taking a picture of each grave and uploading it to the app with a GPS location, then, the person’s name and information are entered into the app.
On the user’s side, anyone can enter their deceased loved one’s name and find what cemetery they are buried in and the specific location of their grave.
Renby shared that he was inspired to center his community service project around documenting graves because recently his grandmother tried to locate her mother’s grave, who is buried in Bedford, and struggled to find it.
He also noted that Bedford is a small, historic town where many people look to find where their deceased family members are buried and want to find closure and connection. Using this grave documentation will help with that process.
Renby originally intended for his project to revolve around working with the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, but ultimately decided on grave documentation because the BillionGraves App is efficient and is a very accessible tool for the public.
Renby also decided to stick solely to documenting graves in Bedford because he “wanted to keep it more local.” He ended up documenting every grave in Bedford through the app-5,000 graves in total, 3,000 from Shawsheen Cemetery and 2,000 from the Old Burying Ground.
The manual work portion took two days, one day dedicated to each cemetery. Each outing took roughly four hours and included Renby and volunteers gently wiping off the graves, taking pictures, and uploading the information into the app. With the documentation stage completed, Renby is now working on the final touches of his project and wrapping up his report on his findings and experience.
One of his main goals for this project was to have a positive impact on the community by making it easier for people to find their loved ones who are buried in Bedford. He hopes his efforts will strengthen Bedford’s legacy, history, and connection between past and present generations. Beyond Bedford, he believes that people having the tools to locate their deceased loved ones and gain that comfort of clarity is extremely important.
For him, this Eagle Scout project summarizes and displays all the skills he has learned throughout his time as a Boy Scout, from proving his leadership skills, to putting budgeting and managing finances into action.
Renby has been a Boy Scout for 12 years, beginning as a Cub Scout. He said that Boy Scouts have “been a part of my family for a while.”
Working towards becoming an Eagle Scout is an “important achievement for me and my family and an accumulation of everything I have learned during my time being a part of the troop.”
When reflecting on his experience growing up, Renby said that being a part of Boy Scouts “influenced me a lot” as he was always an “outdoorsy kid.”
He values that his time as a scout has provided him with opportunities to grow as a person, make real-world connections, and take on leadership opportunities.
His favorite things about Boy Scouts are any activities that allow him to connect with nature, such as camping, fishing, and skiing. Being a part of this tight-knit community throughout his formative years has given him many memories he holds fondly.