Gravestone preservation workshop Sunday at Perry McFarlen Cemetery



The Perry McFarlen cemetery was established in 1864 at the northeast corner of Perry and Genesee roads in Grand Blanc Township. Photo by Lania Rocha

The Perry McFarlen cemetery was established in 1864 at the northeast corner of Perry and Genesee roads in Grand Blanc Township. Photo by Lania Rocha

GRAND BLANC TWP. — The Perry McFarlen Cemetery has been selected as one stop on a 48-state, 48-day mission to teach local residents about gravestone and monument preservation and repair.

The National Gravestone Preservation Workshop Tour will host a free public workshop at the cemetery from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Aug. 30. Interested participants should call 1-860-426-3111 or visit 48statetour.com/events/michigan. The 156-year-old cemetery is located at Perry and Genesee roads.

Jonathan Appell, founder of the Connecticut-based Atlas Preservation, will head up the workshop.

Appell said he had planned a pretty busy year of events, but everything was getting canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“So, I decided to do something different,” he said. “For me, this is like the restoration Olympics, the ultimate challenge.”

Appell started with a post on Facebook, which generated a lot of interest, and he was able to line up some locations quickly. He also reached out to some of people with whom he had previously worked.

“I used many different methods to find locations,” he said. “This is a personal thing for me. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I had always wanted to go to every state. I’ve talked to people across the country. To some degree, I’ve helped grow the field of gravestone preservation.”

According to information posted online, workshops may include discussion of historic preservation with a focus on masonry, cemeteries and gravestones; walking tours to assess the condition and needs of some of the most historic gravestones and monuments; demonstrations on cleaning, including safe and effective methods for removing “biological activity” and graffiti (including discussion on graffiti prevention); and an overview of rust and lime/calcium removal.

Participants will be asked to adopt a gravestone and perform the cleaning process.

Finally, veterans’ stones will be cleaned.

Appell, who has more than 25 years of experience in repairing and preserving gravestones, will share the techniques he has developed.

Specific restoration techniques to be demonstrated will depend on the needs of the cemetery but could include joining a fractured tablet; raising or leveling stones; resetting and joining elements of multiple-piece monuments; problems associated with Portland cement, historic pointing mortars, formulations, applications and curing. If time allows, participants also may construct and learn to use a lifting tripod.

“I’m looking forward to being there and working with the folks locally,” he said. “Every location is different, every group is different – different chemistry, different problems in the cemeteries and graveyards. It’s never the same two days in a row.”