By Sherry Wood, Eagle-Tribune Writer

Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, Thursday, March 9, 2000

— Part 4 —

HAMPTON — The parents come carrying Teddy bears, seashells, and carved angels.

Their destination is “Babyland,” a 24-by-32-foot section of a downtown cemetery, set aside in the early 1960s especially for infants.

“This is a place where all the babies are and the families of the babies are feeling the same pain,” said Constance “Connie” Holman, who with her husband John, is working to raise money to replace the weather-ravaged fence around the parcel. “They feel free to do anything that gets them through their grieving.”

The Holmans gathered 113 signatures on their petition for a warrant article for $1,850 to install a permanent, 18-inch vinyl fence marking the boundaries of Babyland. They have posted letters about the project on bulletin boards in town restaurants and penned letters that have appeared in area newspapers. Townspeople will vote on the article Tuesday.

“I think it’s more meaningful when more people get involved,” Mrs. Holman said.

One of those involved is a senior at Winnacunnet High. Karen Reynolds said she never knew Babyland existed. When she recently discovered it, she mentioned it to her 17-year-old son, Michael; he too was touched to hear of the separate section of the graveyard.

“He came home one day and said, ‘You know, I went to the cemetery looking for that place,” she said.

The state playoffs-bound Winnacunnet Warriors’ basketball star decided to take on the Babyland fence for his senior seminar, a community-service project. He interviewed the Holmans for a paper he is writing, and collected a notebook of information on Babyland. As he worked, he spoke to his classmates about the section of the High Street Cemetery created almost 40 years ago by the late Roland W. Paige, the cemetery superintendent.

“None of them knew about it,” the Hampton native said of his fellow classmates.

Mrs. Reynolds said she is very pleased her son is taking part in something that has such significance to the community.

“It’s just a very small-town, family-type thing in my mind,” she said.

It is the connection to community that drew the Holmans to the project. They became aware of Babyland while visiting the grave of their 22-year-old son, who died in an automobile accident in 1981. Mr. Holman began putting flags on the 25 graves in the parcel. The couple would tidy the graves, sometimes running into parents who had come to visit.

“Losing a child is so traumatic that you can’t help but reach out to families who have lost children,” Mrs. Holman said. Mr. Holman said Babyland was created to remove the worry of having to find a burial site for families whose babies had died.

Patricia “Patty” Harrington said Babyland did just that for her and her husband Kevin, whose 8-month-old son Matthew died in 1996.

“We have four girls and we visit there on holidays, his birthday, Easter,” she said. “They take over little mementos and leave them. Sometimes we see one of the other parents and get a chance to speak with one of them. It’s nice to have that.”

She said the fence around Babyland emphasizes the unique purpose of the space.

“It separates it out from everything and makes it special, and they are special,” she said.

Mrs. Harrington said working behind the scenes for the fence project is typical of the Holmans, Hampton natives with an interest in local history who acted as curators of the town’s Tuck Museum for 13 years. Mr. Holman retired in 1996 and volunteers nearly every day at the public library, helping maintain its Web site. Mrs. Holman is a retired teacher’s aide. The Holmans are hoping voters will support the warrant article providing money for a new Babyland fence, though they know as article 57 out of 66, it is one of many requests for money.

“It’s nice to know a town, even though it’s getting so large, can still reach out to people in need,” Mrs. Holman said.

[End of Part 4 – See “Tiny Angels#1” for Part 1]