Before Avon was the beautiful town we know today, it was known as Northington.
Fast forward almost 200 years to today, there’s a longtime Avon resident who is helping keep the memory of one of the area’s most historical figures of that time alive.
Richard Rulon has been the superintendent at the West Avon Cemetery for almost a decade now, a volunteer position he holds near and dear to his heart.
“My wife is living over here now, and my daughter-in-law, is over here now, I like to keep the place neat for them and everybody else that is over here.”
That connection brought Rulon’s attention to the beat-up headstone of Reverend Rufus Hawley.
“He was the most important person in town for the decisions they had to make, the morals, the values, anything that happened,” said Terri Wilson, president of The Avon Historical Society.
The reverend was born in 1768. He died in 1826, but you can’t make that out on his headstone.
“It was in such bad shape, I just wanted to do something with it,” said Rulon.
So Rulon raised $8,000 to get the reverend a new one, but that wasn’t even the hardest part.
According to state law, he says he had to find one of Hawley’s descendants to sign on off on the change.
“Rev. Rufus is my 5-times great-grandfather,” said John Miller.
The Millers, who live in Oxford, have done research on their relatives, but it was just stories of the past until local historians helped link them to this present project.
“It was easy and it was like a new world opened up to us,” said John’s wife Christine Miller
“Finding the Millers was the key to the whole puzzle,” said Avon town historian Nora Howard.
Now the stone is in the hands of a local sculptor as he works to replicate the original, “Something that’s been weathering for more than 200 years and you want to get it right. You don’t want to find out six months after you finish, oh you made a mistake,” said working sculptor Randall Nelson.
In the meantime, the cemetery’s superintendent would love to see other community members take a similar interest in their town’s buried history.
“Trying to keep history alive. That’s what it is. Trying to remember and look back and be proud of where we have come from and the people who brought us here. That’s what cemeteries are about,” said Nelson.