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by Mark Cheffey
A long-term project is underway to restore grave stones in the older section of Greenwood Cemetery.
The effort, which has already consumed from 300 to 400 hours of work, is expected to continue, as long as donations come in to pay for the work, until as many as 1,000 stones are repaired and standing upright again.
“It’s going to be labor of love,” said Keith Brocksieck, the Greenwood Cemetery sexton, who has taken on the challenge.
Brocksieck estimated he and his crew have put in from 300 to 400 hours of work and have restored 45 stones.
And, he’s appreciated the help and support he’s getting.
Not only are the four high school hires helping clean stones when they are not busy mowing and weed cutting, but Brocksieck is getting valuable know-how and some heavy lifting from an expert in the field.
Some of the $5,000 in donations received so far, have gone toward the hiring of Russ Garner, of Cemetery Restoration Services out of Cherokee, Iowa.
Garner came down with specialized equipment to help raise some of the taller stones back into place after being on the ground, in some cases for many decades.
He’s also been showing Brocksieck and his crew how to do some of the other work on their own, such as piecing broken stones together and laying new bases for them.
“It makes it a lot easier having somebody like that, who is willing to come in and teach us how to do things,” Brocksieck said.
It’s all painstaking work, but Brocksieck said it is rewarding and a “labor of love” to see the results.
“To see the stones go back up and be straight is nice to see again,” he said, not to mention restoring history.
Many of the stones date back to the early 1800s and mark the graves of many of Palmyra’s first settlers.
One of the stones to be restored is for Thomas Gatewood, who served as a military officer in the War of 1812.
“There is a lot of history over here,” said Brocksieck, who has been the cemetery sexton since August of 2020.
Restoration work actually began last year and will continue for the foreseeable future.
“It’s going to take some time to do it and get things to where it’s supposed to be,” Brocksieck said. “And, then we’ll go to the other side and start cleaning and straightening stones over there, too.
Brocksieck said he welcomes more monetary donations to help keep the project going, whether its $5 to whatever.
“And, we’ll keep doing this until it’s done,” he said.