Group seeks to restore cemetery

Submitted to Dorchester Banner/Eddie Dean
This view from the water of Anchor of Hope Cemetery shows extensive erosion, an open crypt and fallen headstones.

HOOPERSVILLE — Two men and a growing band of volunteers are working to restore the Anchor of Hope Cemetery on Hoopers Island.
Donald Willey began seeking solutions to the continuing loss of the graveyard due to erosion. About three weeks ago, he got in touch in with his friend Eddie Dean, who joined the project with new energy and enthusiasm.

The pair attended the Feb. 17 meeting of the Dorchester County Council, where they shared details of their project and its goals. “His efforts, I think many folks know in this community, for the last 17 years, protecting this graveyard from destruction, have been relentless. He has done it with his own time, most of it with his own money.”

“We’re not only talking about saving a graveyard,” he continued. “It’s about preserving Dorchester County history, it’s about enhancing our marine environment, and it’s about supporting the local economy for years to come.”

Though he gave most of the presentation, Mr. Dean acknowledged that Mr. Willey had done the work over the years, saying, “I want no recognition for this. I just want to stand beside this man and do everything possible.”

Mr. Dean said elected officials had reached out to him regarding the needs of the project. He also has been in touch with local government offices, cultural and environmental preservation groups.

“I’m asking for your moral support for this project,” Mr. Dean said. He will submit a request to the council at their March 3 meeting, asking for specific support.

Anchor of Hope Cemetery dates back well into the 1700s. At the time it was established, it was set back from the water. But over time, erosion wore away the land, and graves were lost to the waves.

Mr. Dean created a Facebook page, “Anchor of Hope Cemetery,” to help him gather support. On that site, he listed the following goals, split into phases:

Phase 1 (1-3 Months)
Setting up Board of Directors CEO, CFO, COO, Treasurer
Starting 501c3 Non-Profit Organization process
Set up local bank account for donations for Phase 1 & 2
Establish work days
Volunteer list with skills
Bulk Large Rock for erosion control, materials, etc.
200-foot temporary shoreline stabilization
Open grave protection
Brush removal to enable covering exposed graves
Phase 2 (4 Months-2 Years)
Permits, Zoning
Maintenance plan
Volunteers to assist in periodic, visual on-site inspection
Apply for every single grant
Phase 3 (2-20 Years)
Permanent restoration of shore
Total restoration and preservation of graveyard
Continued funding to maintain this site

Reaching out
“Please reach out to me folks, I need this Board set up ASAP so we can get a local bank account set up and start taking donations,” Mr. Dean wrote. “I will start the account with $100 and hope and pray others will donate. Once we get our 501c3 status then we will proceed with a Go Fund Me page.”

While the search for money continues, the hunt for equipment is underway as well. Heavy equipment is needed to move concrete blocks on the shore, some of which weigh thousands of pounds.

Mr. Dean posted that he was visited over the weekend by a builder who was willing to loan some equipment, though more is still needed.

Plans are being laid for the first Volunteer Day at Anchor of Hope, set for this Saturday. Mr. Dean asks that those interested email him with details regarding contact information with names, how many are in a group, approximate ages, at least 16 years old, skills and tools offered. “We will provide a Waiver that is required to be signed to work on the site for liability reasons.

Volunteers will meet at Old Salty’s Restaurant at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The restaurant is at 2560 Hoopers Island Road in Fishing Creek.

“I’ll provide lunch, beverages, tools, transportation and endless tales from a local man who grew up on the Island,” Mr. Dean wrote. “I guarantee you’ll go home that day feeling fulfilled knowing you’re helping protect history here on the Shore. It will be an experience you’ll tell your grandchildren about.”

Word of the project has spread quickly. The response has included descendants of islanders, such as Martha Wroten Cole, who on Friday posted, “We are so glad to learn about Anchor of Hope. We never ran into Wrotens ever on the western shore growing up, but upon moving to the Eastern Shore, we found lots! Seems our paternal ancestors are waiting to be cared for in this cemetery, too.”

Those who are interested by unable to help on Saturday could still consider other ways to get involved. Mr. Dean has an extensive list of tasks and roles, but a few involve working on permits, trash removal, social media management and seeking grant money.

He may be contacted by email at, or by phone at 410-713-1357.