Monument makeover

Newly formed Madison company
focuses on restoring cemetery stones

Father-and-son team say
many old cemeteries need help

By Konnie McCollum
Contributing Writer

(December 2006) – Two years ago, Bob and Steve Leach of Madison, Ind., bought Ohio Valley Excavating, a company that offers excavating services for more than 30 cemeteries in Jefferson County and the surrounding area.

Steve & Bob Leach

Photo by Konnie McCollum

Steve (left) and Bob (right) Leach’s
new business, Heritage Restoration, is a
sister company to their already
successful Ohio Valley Excavating.

Ohio Valley Excavating works with several funeral homes in the county, including Lytle Funeral Home, Vail Holt Funeral Home, and Morgan Nay Funeral Home. The company has the lot books for the Springdale and Fairmont cemeteries and opens and closes more than 200 graves a year.
While working almost daily in the cemeteries, the Leaches noticed a disturbing trend: Many of the historic grave markers throughout the county are in a sad state of disrepair. Vandals have broken more than a few, while time and weather have done serious damage to scores more.
So the father-and-son duo have started a sister company to Ohio Valley Excavating called Heritage Restoration. The new company offers restoration and preservation services for damaged and neglected monuments. These services include repairing cracks, patches, date changes, structural stability and replacement of encasements.
Bob, 62, retired after preaching for 35 years at Madison Pilgrim Holiness Church. He now volunteers as a chaplain for Hospice and is the sexton for the Springdale, Fairmont and Dupont cemeteries.
“There should be dignity and respect at final resting places, and people should know somebody cares,” Bob said.
Steve, 35, worked as an electrician and builder in Indianapolis before returning to Madison when Ohio Valley Excavating became available. He said starting the new restoration service seemed like a great way to help the community.
“We see the really old markers – the ones with great historic value to families and the community – just getting worse and worse as time goes by, and if someone doesn’t do something soon, they will be lost to the community forever.”

Julie Brown

Photos by Konnie McCollum

Julie Brown takes inventory
of the cemetery markers in the
Cemetery in Hanover, Ind.

Heritage Restoration has a 2,000-square-foot facility located on the Madison hilltop at 614 Martin St. There, the Leaches work to repair the damaged headstones. The company maps out and take pictures of the cemeteries and individual markers. Each headstone removed for repair is carefully labeled to make sure it is returned to its proper place.
“It takes about five days to repair each stone. It is a lengthy process involving a series of chemicals, but it is safe for the old stones” said Steve. The headstone is then put back in place and secured in place he said.
In some of the older cemeteries, many markers, which have often stood for more than 100 years, are simply crooked and have fallen over due to the ground shifting. These headstones are dug up and straightened. Crushed limestone is placed around the markers. When the crushed limestone gets wet, it hardens and keeps the headstones in place.
Most of the older stones were made from sandstone or limestone. Over time, countless of these have cracked and broken in pieces. Many of the stones were repaired before with concrete, but that created more problems.
Bob explained that concrete is harder than the limestone, and doesn’t give, so when the ground shifted, as it does over a long period of time, the concrete didn’t shift. The stones then broke off at the concrete in many cases. In other cases, the stones broke off above or below the cracks that were previously fixed with concrete.

Cemetery Stone

Photo by Konnie McCollum

Many old cemetery stones have broken off
at their bases or cracked over the years.

At the Carmel Cemetery in Hanover, Ind., Heritage Restoration has contracted with cemetery officials to map, straighten and repair the first two rows of headstones in the cemetery. Many of these headstones have been there for more than a century and have faced years of disrepair, vandalism and neglect.
The process of mapping and photographing the stones in their original places has just begun. Once that process is completed, the stones will be removed to the warehouse, repaired and returned.
Steve said Heritage Restoration is willing to work with the many historical organizations in the area, private individuals and cemetery officials to plan the best maintenance and repair programs for the old markers throughout the community.
“We don’t want to lose these valuable pieces of our history,” he said.
Heritage Restoration has also created “Adopt a Stone” and “Adopt a Cemetery” – two programs in which private residents, organizations or businesses can contract with the company to repair just one of the forgotten historical markers in a cemetery or repair and maintenance one of the small, retired cemeteries in the area.
“This is a great community service project,” said Steve.

• For more information about Heritage Restoration, call (812) 265-4158.

Back to December 2006 Articles.



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