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Not Just a “Grave” Affair
Sorry! So many puns fly around at our Basic Cemetery Preservation Workshops (May 14 and 15) that I couldn’t resist at least one (most of them can be attributed to my boss). The truth is, the workshops ARE fun, not necessarily what you’d expect when spending two days in a cemetery.
This is my third year coordinating the cemetery workshops (a basic workshop in the spring and an advanced workshop in August), and I look forward to them every time. Don’t get me wrong, it takes a lot of work and several VERY early mornings, but the reward is definitely worth the effort. (And plenty of Long’s doughnuts don’t hurt either!)
Every year, we hold the workshops at a cemetery filled with broken, fallen and lichen-covered stones, so not only do we have a place for the participants to practice the correct techniques taught by instructor John "Walt” Walters, but we also get the satisfaction of doing good work for a cemetery in need. The DNR-DHPA funds these workshops so that participants can learn how to properly care for their local cemeteries (laws, symbolism and funding are also taught in a classroom portion of the workshop).
This year, we were at the Old Southport Cemetery and Bethel Community Church in Southport. The cemetery has a variety of interesting markers from the 19th century, including the one marking the grave of Mary Bryan, one of the first American women to cross the Cumberland Mountains. More than 50 participants from around Indiana and beyond worked enthusiastically throughout two days to restore many of the older markers in the cemetery, and we will return in August for more complex work.
So what makes this fun? The people. The two days are filled with camaraderie, laughter and plenty of hard work, and it is immensely rewarding to see the enthusiasm of these passionate individuals as they set out to continue the work in their own communities.
Can’t wait 'til August!
Jeannette Rooney is the coordinator for Local History Services at IHS. She travels the state with her LHS team members to assist local history organizations. Why? Because history rocks (and we get to make lots of ice cream stops)!