Mixing his love of history with his love of engineering and construction, the youngest municipal historian in the state has begun fixing up the old Fultonville Cemetery.
Ryan Weitz, a junior at Fonda-Fultonville High School, was appointed Fultonville historian four days before his 16th birthday.
Village Mayor Robert Headwell Jr., who teaches technology at the high school, realized Weitz’s love of history while Weitz was one of his students.
“The village historian position was vacant and he saw how much I was interested in history and how I had been researching my family on my own and he asked me if I wanted the job,” Weitz said.
Weitz was appointed Dec. 1.
Headwell said appointing Weitz as village historian was part of his efforts to include more young people in government.
“Younger individuals have good ideas, good comments, and they are our future leaders,” Headwell said. Headwell said Weitz has done everything that has been asked of him and is working to make his vision for the cemetery a reality.
“He’s a go-getter, a real likable kid and he’s adding a lot to the village,” Headwell said.
Weitz said his love of history began as a small child. His family tells him that he used to cry over an old neglected barn in the town of Glen near his home.
The volunteer position doesn’t require a whole lot of Weitz’s time, but the ambitious 16-year-old has decided to undertake some long-term projects.
Weitz has already set up an e-mail account and has received requests for family histories from all over the country. He is doing his own research on prominent Fultonville families such as the Starins. John Henry Starin was a U.S. congressman from Fultonville who went on to build the first theme park on Glen Island in Westchester County in the late 1800s.
But Weitz’s biggest project is cleaning, repairing and resetting old gravestones in the Fultonville Cemetery at the end of Upper Mohawk Street.
“I can do most of the physical labor myself,” Weitz said. “This is a completely volunteer job, so it helps with [getting into] colleges, who like volunteer efforts.”
Weitz said he hasn’t had any problem recruiting more volunteers for the real heavy lifting, either.
“When I need extra hands I get help from my classmates, who all need community service hours too,” he said.
Weitz, who lives about 500 feet from the cemetery, said he spent a lot of time walking through it as a child.
“It’s been around since the 1830s and has fallen into very bad disrepair — stones are falling all over the place and they are covered with moss,” he said. “It’s always been an interest of mine.”
Weitz estimates that between 600 and 800 people are buried in the cemetery. About 200 stones need to be reset, 300 are leaning and the rest are in pretty good shape.
Weitz’s dream is to attend MIT to study engineering. He hopes to continue mixing his love for engineering and construction with history.
“Engineering and construction could be used for historical purposes like restoring old homes, old buildings or old storefronts,” Weitz said.
When school starts in the fall, Weitz said he intends to continue with his projects while participating in the Fonda-Fultonville cross-country and track teams. He wants to continue with his research and look for possible grant opportunities to get gravestones for veterans.
“There is a lot I’d like to do in the next two years,” Weitz said. “If the days were a little longer, I could probably get it all done.”
Weitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.