Groveport Cemetery repairs underway

 Messenger photos by Rick Palsgrove
 Dirt was brought in to fill in sunken areas at the cemetery. Headstones like these will be reset and made level.
 A red ribbon wrapped around headstones marks them for repairs.
 Damaged headstones like this one will be reset.

The Groveport Cemetery is undergoing improvements to combat the wear and tear time and weather have inflicted upon it.

Under the direction of the Groveport Cemetery Committee (made up of Shawn Cleary, Ed Rarey, and Jan Stoots), the Groveport Public Works Department is resetting 278 headstones and filling in sunken areas of the grounds with fresh dirt.

"It’s history," said Cleary of the nearly 200-year-old cemetery whose first grave dates to 1809. "The people buried there are the reason Groveport is here. It’s important to remember them, take care of them, and respect them."

According to Public Works Superintendent Dennis Moore, 16 loads of dirt totaling 96 yards at a cost of about $1,500 was trucked in to fill sunken areas throughout the cemetery where the ground has settled due to burials and weather. Additionally, Moore said around $200 has been spent on materials to reset and level damaged headstones and another $600 may be needed for concrete for headstone foundations. Weather in general, as well as freezing and thawing, are the main reasons for the damaged headstones.

"There’s a lot of work to do. It’s an old cemetery," said Moore.

Moore said during the project workers have discovered that old headstones have deep foundations.

"Some of the headstones have brick footers and some have sandstone and they’re deeper than the newer grave markers," said Moore.

Moore said it could take another two to three weeks to finish the repairs. The areas with new dirt will then be hydro-seeded for grass.

Cleary said it is important to fill in the sunken areas and fix the headstones.

"It was unlevel to walk on, which made it hard for older people when they visit the cemetery," said Cleary. "Also, it’s ideal to be able to look down a row of headstones and see them all lined up and upright."

Cleary added the cemetery committee is also looking into purchasing a marker to denote the area in the cemetery where cholera victims were buried long ago in unmarked graves.

"We want them to be remembered, too," said Cleary.

The village is also considering either purchasing imaging equipment, or contracting out the service, in order to locate old, unmarked graves in Groveport Cemetery. Many of the old graves from the 19th century once had wooden grave markers and that time and weather simply rotted away leaving no trace of identification for who lies in the ground below.

"We’re working on getting someone to come give a demonstration of what an imaging camera can do," said Cleary.

Interim Village Administrator Ken Salak said the village is obtaining estimates on imaging equipment and it is expected the cost would be less than $18,000. Salak added that it would be hard to identify the remains in the old, unmarked graves as cemetery records are incomplete.

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