Glen S. Gaccione, Maintenance Staffperson and Coordinator of the Hillside Acre Animal Cemetery at Nevins Farm
April 1, 2012

1. What does your work on the Nevins Farm property entail?

My work entails a variety of jobs working outdoors around the property and inside the different buildings—jobs like cutting the grass during the summer or snow plowing and shoveling in the winter. One day we could be fixing a piece of equipment or hanging pictures, the next solving basic electrical or plumbing issues. The main goal is to keep the property looking clean, presentable to the public, and all buildings operating smoothly.


2. How long have you worked for the MSPCA?

I have been working at the MSPCA for 4 years. Prior to coming to the MSPCA, I was working in the landscaping business. I knew the Property Manager at Nevins Farm and when a position opened up I applied and got the job. This position has provided the opportunity not only continue doing landscaping jobs, but also working on a wide variety of other jobs. On top of that, I get to be around a wide variety of different pets.


3. The Nevins Farm property in Methuen is a gorgeous property. Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the property?

Nevins Farm was a working farm up until the early 1900s. Originally, Mr. Nevins wanted to sell the farm and make it a gentlemen farm estate. However, in 1917 after he passed away, Mrs. Nevins decided to donate the land to the MSPCA. Nevins Farm is 55 acres big including the 4 acres at Hillside Acre Cemetery. At the farm we have a number of buildings that are home to a wide range of domestic animals. We have a large barn, a chicken/pig coop, pen area with a shed for goats, a number of outdoor sheds housing horses, a donkey and even a bull.  Of course there is the main animal shelter which is home to the dogs, cats, rabbits and other small mammals. We also have our new, very large, indoor riding ring, maintenance building, office house and crematory. 


4. I heard that we received a generous donation for the construction of an indoor riding ring for horses. Why is an indoor riding ring so important?

Yes, the indoor riding ring was completed this past fall. It’s a big white building behind the shelter—you can’t miss it! The ring is very important for year-round horse training and rehabilitation and is a place for the horses to work out away from the cold wind and snow. The facility also provides the opportunity to showcase horses for potential adoption as well.  


5. Has the downturn of the economy affected the Nevins Farm property?

We still see a lot of pets arriving at Nevins Farm and being adopted.


6. How do you find it emotionally rewarding to work at a place like Nevins?

I find it very rewarding because I’m working at a place doing two things I like to do—that’s working outside and being around so many different animals.


7. What work do you do as the Cemetery Coordinator of Hillside Acre Animal Cemetery?

Some of the work I do as the Cemetery Coordinator would be to manage the scheduling of burials, run the stone cleaning program, and coordinating the engraving of headstone requirements between a client and the engraving company. Most importantly, I provide support by listening to the clients’ stories or relating similar personal pet stories, or by providing information about pet loss support groups and counseling. These simple acts can help ease the sorrowful experience of losing a beloved pet. 


8. How long has the cemetery been at Nevins Farm?

The cemetery has been operating since 1917 when Mrs. Nevins donated the land to the MSPCA. Hillside has expanded over the years and now is 4 acres in size and the final resting place for over 18,000 animals.


9. I know Pet Memorial Sunday is one of the big events at Hillside Acre. Can you tell us a little bit about it? 

Pet Memorial Sunday is a special day held on the 2nd Sunday in September. On this day we look to celebrate the lives of our pets. We have a small ceremony with a guest speaker who talks about their pets and experiences. We also have flowers for the owners to place on their pet burial site. We place special red, white and blue flower arrangements at the burial sites of the military dogs. 


10. Are there any famous animals buried at the cemetery?

Hillside Acres is the final resting place for over 18,000 pets. We have all different kinds and sizes of animals from small rabbits and birds to monkeys and even a horse. Our most famous pet is a military dog named Corporal Derek Dunn. He served in the Marines during World War II. Corporal Dunn would often ride in his own car or train car during victory parades. When he passed away there was a full military funeral with Marine escorts. His owner is still living today in California and is 91 years old. Another pet that is buried at Hillside is a parrot named Polly who lived from 1845 until 1937. At 92 years of age she lived during some very tough times for our country, like the Great Depression.


11. Why is it so important for people to continue to honor their pets even after they have died?

It’s important because, for pet owners their pet is truly a family member. For some pet owners their pets were the only companionship they might have had. By honoring their pets after death they are keeping the memory and spirit of their beloved pet alive. How many of you own a pet? Do they not show you unconditional friendship, loyalty and love? So why shouldn’t we show them the same both in life and after?


12. Do you have any pets at home?

I have one cat left at home called CC. She is about 17 years old and runs the household!  I’ve had pets all my life including rabbits, turtles, gerbils, a white rat, dogs and cats.