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Guardians arrive to ‘preserve and restore’
Mark Morton, owner of Gravestone Guardians of Ohio, has spent 15 weeks this summer and fall resetting, leveling and fixing broken tombstones in the cemetery, which has burials dating back to the early 1830s.
Robert Myers (left) and Mark Morton of Gravestone Guardians of Ohio use a tripod to level a gravestone as they work to restore tombstones, some from the 1830s, in the Old Deersville Cemetery recently.
TimesReporter.com staff writer
Posted Nov. 1, 2014 at 9:52 PM
By the time this Harrison County community celebrates its bicentennial in 2015, the Old Deersville Cemetery — the final resting place of hundreds of area pioneer residents — will look better than it has in decades. Mark Morton, owner of Gravestone Guardians of Ohio, has spent 15 weeks this summer and fall resetting, leveling and fixing broken tombstones in the cemetery, which has burials dating back to the early 1830s. “You really have to love this to be here this long,” Morton said. The project is being paid for by the Franklin Township trustees, who are responsible for maintaining the cemetery.
When he arrived in May, Morton found a cemetery that looked like many older burial grounds. It had dozens of old tombstones tilting in every direction imaginable. Making the task even more challenging is the fact that the cemetery is laid out on a steep hillside next to the Deersville United Methodist Church. “I was overwhelmed,” he said. Since that time, Morton has repaired about 200 tombstones in the cemetery. “Now I see the difference,” he said. He expects to have the project completed next year.
Morton spent all of last week in Deersville, working in the cemetery during the day and camping at Tappan Lake Park at night. On Wednesday afternoon, he and an associate, Robert Myers of Pittsburgh, focused their attention on leveling a large tombstone next to the fence at the west side of the cemetery. The stone belonged to Andrew Guthrie, a Civil War veteran who died in 1901, and his wife, Louisa, who died in 1906. Morton and Myers set three long pieces of wood into the ground to form a tripod above the stone. They attached a pulley and chains to the tripod, and then used the chains to lift the tombstone off the ground to level it. The Guthrie stone had been worked on in the past. Morton expressed disgust that the stone had been leveled previously using another older tombstone and footstones. “We’re here to preserve and restore it,” Morton said of the Guthrie stone. “But there’s something wrong with putting someone’s footstone under it.”
Later, Morton showed off one of his proudest accomplishments, the restoration of the marble tombstone of John Poulson, a Revolutionary War veteran who died in 1847. The tall, slender stone was leaning over when Morton found it. He set it upright again and cleaned it, so that now it is a bright white color. “They’re all important, but the stone of a Revolutionary War veteran and one of the early settlers is really important,” he said. Morton, who lives in the Mansfield area, began restoring cemeteries four years ago, inspired by his interest in genealogy. He has taken classes to burnish his restoration skills — “good, correct classes,” he called them. His previous jobs in landscaping and construction have also proved useful. This year has been a busy one for Morton. He has been working on four other cemetery projects around Ohio, in addition to the one in Deersville. “This has been a challenging year for jobs,” he said. “There is no shortage of jobs.” It costs between $100 and $250 to fix one tombstone. He said it’s not a lucrative profession: “Nobody is going to get rich at it.”
Posted: 12:00 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014
Clark County residents honor veterans
By Pam Cottrel
All over the world last week our veterans and our allies were remembered for their unselfish service and sacrifice.
The observance of this holiday is always centered on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the eleventh month; the time when WWI officially ended.
My husband and I found the British Remembrance Day observance with red ceramic poppies to be particularly impressive and sobering. Each red poppy represented a service member who had been killed and there were so many that the Tower of London was encircled by a solid red moat.
Americans recognize our veterans of all wars and time periods on our Veterans Day. The official wreath lying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery always makes me cry. The guards are so perfect. The view from that spot takes my breath away. I remember how the ceremony at the National Cemetery at the Pacific on Oahu was always full of flowers. The service at the American Cemetery in the Netherlands had the attention of our family. The young Dutch gentleman who had adopted my uncle’s name on the wall of the missing sent us photos of the ceremony.
But not all the touching tributes took place on the world wide or national stage.
Beautiful heartfelt remembrance ceremonies were held all over Clark County. Many schools invited veterans in for special observances of the day. I’m proud to be a part of a community that takes Veterans Day seriously.
For some of us, the honoring of veterans goes on 365 days a year.
Dave Suther keeps his eye on the veterans buried at Medway Cemetery on Lower Valley Pike. I’ve interviewed Suther before about his efforts collecting obituaries and biographical information about those buried at Medway. Now he had taken his caring to a new level, repairing tombstones.
Working with Gravestone Guardians, and other volunteers, Suther has been repairing old tombstones in the Medway Cemetery. The first to be fixed were the veterans’ stones.
Gravestone Guardians takes on the most complicated restorations where broken tombstones are reconstructed like a puzzle. The group has completed 18 of the 64 stones in need of serious restoration. Their work will continue in the spring.
Meanwhile Suther and local volunteers clean old tombstones with a biological solution and straighten the stones that are leaning or have sunken into the ground.
“It’s an ongoing project,” said Suther, who explained that he does not use soap, bleach or anything abrasive, which would make the stones’ fragile condition worse.
The group has found the best tombstone cleaning agent to be simply water and D2 Biological Solution which was developed specifically for this kind of job by Limeworks in Pennsylvania.
The New Carlisle VFW donated money to the Medway Cemetery Association to have the gravestones of veterans of all wars cleaned properly. Their donation will make the stones more readable and last longer. There are 452 veterans in the Medway Cemetery. Every Memorial Day, Dave Suther double checks to make sure all 452 have their flags.
In addition to fixing the stones, Dave Suther, his parents, Cletus and Elaine Suther and their nine children and spouses, have constructed a new cemetery directory and weather proof case. The steel framed guide has been erected in the cemetery next to the church.
All 3721 graves are listed so that visitors will be able to locate the grave sites of loved ones. He will update the list as more a buried. Suther has obituaries or a death certificate for 2800 of those graves, and he is willing to share with genealogists and historians.
“Medway is one big family and we are just taking care of our cemetery and our future places,” Suther said.
MAHS, MCA To Fund Headstone Repairs
By Maggie Yowler
As a result of Dave Suther’s constant nagging, the Medway Area Historical Society, as well as the Medway Cemetery Association, have agreed to fund the reparations of nearly 70 headstones in the Medway Cemetery that have fallen into disrepair. Suther championed the effort to repair the monuments of Medway’s fallen more than one year ago, and is now satisfied that the task will finally come to fruition.
More than 3,700 individuals lay at rest in the Medway Cemetery, and in the old section of the cemetery, 65 headstones have fallen throughout the years and are in need of repair.
“Through the generosity of the Medway Area Historical Society and the Medway Cemetery Association, it was agree they would each put up $5,000 to get this project underway,” Suther explained. “Several restoration companies were checked into and it was decided that Gravestone Guardians from Shelby, Ohio, would be the company to do the restoration. The project will be done in four phases,” he added.
Phase One, which involves cleaning the headstones without excessive damage, has already been completed. Suther said Gravestone Guardians are currently in the cemetery working on Phase Two, which addresses the stones that need reset or restacked with monument compound with repairs, he said, adding that some bases will need to be repaired or replaced. Phase Three will involve the broken stone, requiring epoxy to repair, and Phase Four will fill-in and color match the repair work to cover the cracks.
Among the stones being repaired are Andrew J. Kessler, a Civil War soldier from the 142nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and Merritt H. Tatman, who was the son of a member of the Ohio Legislature and after the organization of Clark County, became the first Associate Judge, a position he held until the time of his death in 1827. Tatman’s monument is the most intricate task, as it is the only five-piece headstone being repaired in the process.
Suther said the process of obtaining funding for this project has not been easy, but his perseverance has ultimately paid off, honoring 65 of the souls buried in the graveyard by tending to their final memorials. A mainstay at Medway Area Historical Society meetings, Suther’s name has become synonymous with gravestone reclamation for the past year or so. “This took 12 months to accomplish,” Suther said. “I can’t tell you how many times I had to yell and scream and get loud with people to make this happen, but I’m glad it did,” Suther said.
The reparations to the 65 stones are expected to be completed in the Spring of 2015.