Have Monumental Fun Making a Difference
By Bonnie Burks Gray
It’s hard to paint a picture of people working with brush and water, or shovel and tamper, or lever and brawn, on a stone engraved with numbers as long-ago as the 1700s and show that those folks are having fun. But ask anyone who has attended one of the Grove Hill Cemetery Restoration/Preservation Workshops and I’m sure they’d tell you it was more than fun, it was satisfying.
Grove Hill Cemetery, 458 Mt Eden Rd, Shelbyville, KY, is the resting place of over 18,000 people, some whose monuments note their burial or reinterment date as the late 1700s. Grove Hill is an active, vital contributor to the quality of life of Shelby Countians. A silent servant to the community, performing its role with dignity, respect and responsibly.
Shelby County Public Schools sponsored a Veteran’s Day Event in 2010 in front of Grove Hill Chapel. Historic tours, bird watching tours and Memorial Day trubutes are just some of the activities fround at Grove Hill Cemetery.
Mary Ann Gramig, left and Lisa Davis gently clean a stone using soft clean brushes and D/2 Solution. They are certified apprentice preservationists for Grove Hill Cemetery.
Friends of Grove Hill
The restoration/preservation efforts of Grove Hill are sponsored by an auxiliary group of the cemetery, Friends of Grove Hill. One task they have adopted is to restore gravestones which no longer have descendants who are responsible for their upkeep or who claim that responsibility. Stones encrusted with lichens and moss; or the grime of pollution; or have succumbed to gravity, toppled and broken are the target of Friends of Grove Hill preservationists. KY law is very clear that the descendants of family cemeteries or plots in public cemeteries are responsible for the preservation/restoration of ancestors’ monuments. Landowners whose property holds a cemetery do not own the land (from border to border of the cemetery) that it occupies. Those property owners are not responsible to mow or protect the cemetery beyond restraining their livestock from trampling or otherwise harming the stones. Even though Grove Hill is not responsible for the maintenance of the monuments, their condition is a concern. From esthetic to historic value, the preservation of the monuments is something that Friends of Grove Hill have focused their attention on. The “Friends” take their role seriously and have dedicated hours of research, called in the talents of noted stone preservationists and benefitted from lots of trial and very little error. Their primary preservationist team, led by Wm Whitie Gray, includes Mike Harrod, Gay Guthrie and Charles Long. All Shelby Countians, the group has personally tackled or led workshop trainees through restoration efforts on so many stones, the number nears 100. The challenge, however, is 10 times that number. Team member, Long, is also Trustee Chair of Grove Hill and says that the preservation efforts are welcomed beyond measure. Dare we say, “Priceless”?
“Friends” have sponsored three workshops; the last two had returning participants. The last workshop had our largest attendance of new participants (over 30) with attendees traveling from as far as Richmond, Greenville and Independence, KY. Workshop attendees who complete the full training course earn a certification as qualified, apprentice preservationist. They are not yet experts, but certainly knowledgeable of safe steps to clean stones, realign foundations or complete less complicated monument issues. The protection of stones for future generations often means redirecting the efforts of overzealous or misinformed preservationists.
Broken urn on far right.
Urn collar was created from vinyl cement to hold the urn.
Finished repair of urn.
The before and after experience of our workshops is most interesting. Seeing a stone gently cleaned so that it can be read for the first time in possibly 100 years is rewarding. Resurrecting a stone, buried face down in the dirt to a new, firm foundation is exhilarating. Taking a broken stone, unearthing its pieces, putting them back together, making the stone whole again, is work whose reward is pure satisfaction.
Restoring a stone is often like an archaeological dig. Preservationists gently sift through the dirt around the stone to find pieces of the monument, unearth the base or foundation, and determine its original location. GENTLY is the adverb heard most often. Whether brushing debris from a stone or cleaning it otherwise, it is critical that every move is executed with great care to protect the monument. Carvings on marble or limestone will not survive a heavy hand. Gently lifting a stone, securing it with straps that hold it tightly without marring the stone, lowering carefully on to a new foundation, procedures that must be executed carefully to protect the monument and assure the safety of the workers. Stones can weigh hundreds of pounds. We want no broken toes, or pulled backs, please. Restoration steps for a single stone can stretch over several days as monuments are uncovered, foundations are laid, pieces are epoxied together, stones are adhered to level foundations, and finally cleaned. Allowing concrete mix to harden, and epoxy to dry, are just two of the steps that make major stone restoration work painstakingly slow.
The Graham Stone, had hidden its story for over 50 years. The marble base had crumbled and sent the stone to the ground. Preservationists collected all the pieces and put it together again. Remaking lost pieses with vinyl concrete because it has the same co-efficient as stone. The new pieces will expand and contract with the weather just as if they were stone will stand for ages. Custom bond epoxy holds the pieces together. A new foundation holds the stone erect.
To learn more about our restoration work; upcoming events: historic tours and workdays; and other Grove Hill news, including a genealogical search of residents; visit our website: http://www.grovehillcemetery.net/ and click on our Facebook link.
Next Workshop – Join Us
The next Grove Hill Monument Restoration/Preservation Workshop is September 22, 2012 (9:30 AM until we are tired, 3:00 PM or so) & 23 (1:30 PM- ?). Registration fees cover lunch on Saturday, preservation kit and materials, plus participants completing the Saturday morning training will earn an apprentice certification. Registration: $45/individual; $80/couple; $20/youth age 10 – 18. Previously certified apprentices are invited to join us to help train and work on the stones; $15 covers lunch. The workshop is limited to 30 trainees. Make checks payable to Grove Hill Cemetery Workshop. Advanced reservations are necessary; please contact Grove Hill, 502-633-2750 or firstname.lastname@example.org by Sept 17, 2012
You can check http://saveagrave.net/workshops-seminars for more workshops.
Participants in the April 2012 Grove Hill Cemetery Restoraiton Workshop.