CHESTER TOWNSHIP — Go to any cemetery and you’ll find gravestones that have been neglected. Covered in lichen and stained black with mold, some leaning to one side. Others rock with the simplest touch and teeter precariously.
A group of more than 30 attended a 2-day workshop at Northfork Cemetery, also known as Owl Creek Cemetery, northeast of Chesterville to learn methods to preserve these pieces of history from nationally known gravestone conservator, Jonathan Appell of Hartford, Connecticut.
The cost of this workshop was covered by a generous donation from Rockwell Bonecutter, making it free to those who wished to attend.
The workshop was arranged by Tim Foor, owner of Hallowed Ground Cemetery Preservation. Foor has been working diligently in Morrow County at first volunteering his time to repair neglected cemeteries then turning his passion into a business.
When asked why Northfork Cemetery was chosen for the workshop he explained, “I saw a post on Facebook of the late State Senator Allen Levering’s stone and how she was interested in cleaning it and having it repaired. That sparked the idea of trying to put together this training for volunteers to gain from his (Appell’s) knowledge and apply it locally.”
Appell travels across the country giving workshops to people interested in preserving this sacred history. He has worked on gravestones ranging from a small broken tablet and leaning monuments to what is known as “The Knights Tombstone,” a 32-inch by 68-inch broken ledger stone of Belgian black limestone that originally marked the grave of one of Historic Jamestown’s elites in the floor of a 1617 church.
“They call me a stone doctor,” he said. “I triage these stones.”
He shares his knowledge with others who then take what they have learned and apply it to their local cemeteries.
“Thankfully, we had good weather. I was worried with all the rain we had been having but we had sunshine both days,” Foor said.
“We are very fortunate to be able to learn from someone of Jonathan’s expertise. He is one of the best in the nation that does this type of work. He has taught over 30 people here over this weekend. We will take what we have learned and continue working.
“We were able to fix 14 gravestones and clean about 30 more.”