BREMEN — A cemetery is often viewed of as a final resting place; however, many people throughout the year visit to remember the loved ones they’ve lost, and are missing them during birthdays, anniversaries, holidays or other yearly events.
In late April, the Sacred Heart Cemetery, in Bremen, associated with Bremen St. Mary Catholic Church, was vandalized and left for the community to pick up the pieces. Roughly 50 headstones were pushed over and knocked down — thankfully none of them chipped or painted with graffiti.
When Brigette Sharp, memorialist at the Logan Monument Company, heard about this, her heart broke and she reached out to her boss, Bill Boone, president of Logan Monument Co., to come up with a plan. Knowing Boone has done projects like this in the past, she knew he would be willing to help out the community.
After agreeing to restore the cemetery, Sharp reached out to Dave Krile, the caretaker of Sacred Heart, and he was astounded by the community support that showed up. Boone had approximately six employees of his own that helped and the rest were community members. Altogether, almost 15 people worked on the project and got 50 headstones done in half a day.
“I just think of the families, that’s all you can think about are the families who were devastated. It just means a lot to put it back together and put smiles on their faces,” expressed Sharp.
One of those family members happened to be there that day and the team took the opportunity to cleanup the headstone while they were there for the gentleman. Boone believes it was a great-great-grandmother of the gentleman working with them that day, which turned into a great opportunity to learn more about him and his family.
“Each one of these monuments out there is really a memorial for someone special at that time. There’s a story behind every single stone and we get to hear about his great-grandma, and we’re taking care of that guy’s family,” added Boone.
The damage in Sacred Heart Cemetery was done in the back of the lot, therefore, Logan Monument Co. couldn’t bring their crane they typically use to reset the stones; they had to use a tripod and lift it with a chain hoist. The community supplied their own wheel barrels, shovels, gravel and cement to help reset the headstones.
Boone estimated the portion of the project they helped out with cost $1,500, which is money most cemeteries don’t have — sometimes not even their caretakers are paid. Most cemeteries — especially smaller ones — that are in the position of needing restored don’t have the funds to be put back together and that’s why Boone enjoys giving back in this way.
“These rural cemeteries — how do they make money? They don’t. They make money when someone gets buried there and they charge “X” dollars for a grave,” explained Boone.
Since this wasn’t Boone’s first rodeo at restoring cemeteries, he has developed a small plan to give back in these instances. He will donate one truck, at least two men and a day’s work without charge. However, there’s a catch — there must be a lunch involved. Boone said this is one of his favorite aspects of restoring cemeteries because you get the chance to learn the story of each individual helping out that day and it almost re-energizes the group before completing their work.
“We kind of have a formula that we’ve always done. Why do I do it — it’s giving back and I think that it’s important that we give back and that’s our expertise. You can do money but there are some things that money can’t buy,” mentioned Boone.
Boone also wants the community involved because then the community takes ownership and responsibility; therefore, they’re more apt to look after it. That’s exactly what happened in this scenario and Krile’s wife provided all the homemade food for the crew.
Krile has been mowing and taking care of the cemetery for the last 20 years, so this project meant a lot to him. By mid-May, just in time for Memorial Day, all of the headstones were restored.
“To me it means a lot because a lot of my wife’s ancestors are buried down there and it’s a very old cemetery because it’s been there since the early 1800s. A lot of the local residents have been buried there,” remarked Krile.
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Grace Warner is a reporter for The Logan Daily News