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Promo Image: Northern Michigan in Focus: Gravestone Restoration

Northern Michigan in Focus: Gravestone Restoration

Preserving more than 100 years of history can be a lot of work.

It takes patience and passion.

In this week’s Northern Michigan in Focus, chief photojournalist Corey Adkins introduces you to one man who has taken upon himself to preserve gravestones at an Evart cemetery.

“I have a lot of my family buried here in this cemetery, and always liked coming out here and visiting family. This section of the cemetery is the old historical section and one thing that jumped out at me was the stones always looked dirty, dingy and tipping, and some were laying on the ground so you as a novice you say wow, something should be done about that," says Mark Wilson, .

We all know the saying, actions speak louder than words, so Mark, who is the director of public works in Evart, did just that.

He took a class on cemetery conservation and stone restoration and started work at the Forest Hills Cemetery in Evart.

“This would be a typical stone that has had no restoration work done on it in the past, and I think the thing people don’t realize is there’s nothing that holds these stones together,” explains Mark. “Then, the other thing you see is that’s quite common, and this one is out in the open away from trees and it doesn’t have a whole lot of growth, but it starts getting this biological growth, and in this case you got a lot of lichens growing on this stone. Then on the base, it’s got moss growing down there and that’s going to eat away at the stone.”

A lot of the stones they’re caring for are well over 100 years old. 

Many of the bases for these stones aren’t on level ground and, over the years, they sink and settle unevenly, causing them to topple.

Another problem? People.

“People with very good intentions coming out with harsh cleaners and harsh cleaning methods. Wire brushes and power washers, using detergents or bleach. Bleach is laden with salts and that’s something we don’t want in contact with marble at all,” says Mark.

Armed with a passion, Mark and his group of volunteers have cleaned and restored around 100 gravestones.

Even though Mark works for the city, most of his time out here is volunteered.

“This community is losing its history,” explains Mark. “The history of this community is right here in the older section of this cemetery. These are the people that built this community from the beginning and made this community what it is today, so I think of someone who lives in this community now is we have an obligation to continue to save their legacy for future generations."

And he’d like to spread his knowledge.

“One of the things I hope to see come from this is, not only restoring stones in this cemetery, but I would hope that we could make people see through volunteer work you can go in and restore a cemetery. You can do stone restoration work the right way and save these cemeteries for future generations”