The Cushing Historical Society will feature Laurel Gabel at its monthly meeting, Thursday, Sept. 12.

Gabel's program is entitled Understanding Early Gravestones and the Stories They Tell.

New England's burying grounds are often called outdoor museums — full of history, art, chronicles of religious beliefs, genealogy, sometimes tragedy and scandal — even humor. This 50-minute slide presentation will introduce participants to the symbolism and special language of gravestones and to the attitudes about death and memorialization that these historic artifacts reflect over time. With a focus on early New England gravemarkers and their carvers, the Rural Cemetery Movement, fraternal and heraldic symbolism, and the historic and modern use of photography in mourning and memorialization, this well-illustrated program promises to be informative as well as entertaining and is guaranteed to make one look at area gravestones, from all eras, with new insight and appreciation.

Gabel is a scholar in the field of cemetery and gravestones studies, a popular lecturer, author of numerous essays and articles, and co-author (with Theodore Chase) of "Gravestone Chronicles I and II," two books about early New England gravestones and the men who carved them. A registered nurse in "a previous lifetime," Gabel has been an active member of the Association for Gravestone Studies since 1979, when a lifelong passion for research, genealogy, social history, and folk art came together in a study of New England's early burial grounds, the stone markers, and their makers. Gabel has served multiple terms as an AGS Trustee and as the organization's Research Coordinator, 1983-2000. She is the recipient of many honors and awards for her contributions to the field of gravestone studies.

The CHS meeting will take place Thursday, Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m., at the Cushing Historical Society's Meeting House on Hathorne Point Road.

The final meeting of the society will take place on Oct. 10 and will a potluck supper followed by a Program by Hanna Blunt on the Bernard (Blackie) Langlais Estate.