The Recorder – Workshop on gravestone repairs planned in Wendell

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Published: 9/29/2022 8:00:29 PM

WENDELL — A workshop pertaining to the repair and resetting of gravestones is scheduled for Wendell Center Cemetery on Saturday.

Ta Mara Conde, president of Historic Gravestone Services, will hold the workshop from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is a $15 fee associated with the event, which is sponsored by the Wendell Cemetery Commission and the Wendell Cultural Council.

“This is really to develop some volunteers who might continue work there or anybody who wants to learn how to clean or take care of their family’s stones properly,” Conde explained. “This is about caring for (gravestones), preserving them.”

Conde said she will provide a stone cleaning and resetting demonstration after a short talk about the history of cemeteries, the types of stones used and how they are placed.

“Hopefully everyone will put on their work gloves and clean stones and reset … stones so they can become confident in their skills,” she continued.

Conde, who has been in this line of work for 23 years, said most of the gravestones in Wendell are made of what is referred to as tablet stone. She explained a third of a gravestone is in the earth to leverage the upper two-thirds. She said time and weather take a toll on these stones.

“So we’re just going to straighten them up a little,” Conde said in a phone interview Thursday, taking a break from working in a Concord cemetery.

People can register for this workshop by contacting Sylvia Wetherby at rosebriarfarm68@gmail.com or Florrie Blackbird at fdblackbird@gmail.com. The event is open to everyone regardless of where they live.

Wetherby said a fellow Wendell cemetery commissioner concerned about the condition of area gravestones recommended recruiting Conde for a workshop. Wetherby said the commission got a roughly $300 grant from the Wendell Cultural Council to help fund the program.

“We had planned to do this in the summer,” she noted, but “it was way too hot standing in the sun in the Center Cemetery in July.”

Conde, who lives in New Salem, said her career as a gravestone restorer has been a lifelong journey. When she was 4½ years old, her brother, William Bachman, died in a vehicle accident while on leave from the Vietnam War. Bachman was 19. Conde recalled spending every day for two years with her mother in her brother’s cemetery.

“It became my playground. It’s where I learned to read,” she mentioned. “I love stone now.”

After moving to Massachusetts in 1994, she was admiring the artwork of gravestones in a Hatfield cemetery when someone there recommended she approach the Association for Gravestone Studies in Greenfield. She wound up enrolling in the association’s workshops.

More information about Conde’s business is available at historicgravestone.com.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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