John Walters, known as the Graveyard Groomer, is returning to Wapakoneta for the fourth time to spend time in graveyards — his third time to host a workshop for the Auglaize County Historical Society.
“A lot of time people go to workshops and they get all this information and they may be inspired, but then they get back to their own home or their own town and maybe they never get started on their project or it is a little intimidating to be by themselves,” Auglaize County Historical Society Administrator Rachel Barber said. “The great thing about the Graveyard Groomer is it is very practical and within hours of getting the information you are already at work on a tombstone
and suddenly see what you can do — you see a clearer tombstone, you see a repaired tombstone, you see a straightened tombstone.”
Walters, a professional cemetery restorer from Connersville, Ind., is tabbed to host “Gravestones for Novices,” a beginner’s workshop in cemetery preservation on June 9, the second Saturday in June, in New Knoxville. The workshop is to be conducted at the First United Church of Christ, at the intersection of West Bremen and St. Marys streets, and in the nearby German Reformed Cemetery.
Barber said the workshop’s focus is to train participants in the best practices for preserving historic gravestones.
She explained Walters typically discusses such topics as properly cleaning tombstones, leveling stones, building new bases for stones, and repairing broken stones. He also will give a demonstration of each technique.
Under the supervision of Walters and his staff, who work with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, participants have the opportunity to work on actual tombstones during the day.
Barber said workshop is open to and beneficial for township trustees, cemetery caretakers and boards, church leaders, genealogists, historians and anyone interested in preserving this aspect of community history.
Barber, who noted people as far away as Minnesota have contacted the Auglaize County Historical Society about attending the workshop, said taking the workshop is about preservation of history and showing respect for people.
“This is important because we drive around and we have these cemeteries and some of them have been kept up better than others but they are part of our heritage and they certainly do make up the streetscape in town or in the country,” Barber said. “It is a matter of respect to treat those tombstones the best we can.
“We can accomplish so much with some elbow grease and a little information — it makes it a great workshop to attend.”