Historic headstones undergo restoration

Published: Apr. 11, 2019 at 4:46 PM EDT
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The Graveyard Groomer has arrived and is making his mark on the City of South Bend.

John Walters is probably the nicest guy you’ll ever meet in a graveyard.

“I love my work. I love my work, yeah, I’m very passionate about it. I think I’ve found my niche, [I'm a] lucky guy,” he said.

And it shows. John and his crew of two have taken headstones that were placed in South Bend’s City Cemetery in the late 1800s and early 1900s and made them look more like they were placed there yesterday.

“It usually surprises people, what they look like; but you restore an old car, you restore an old house. We just restore old stones," Walters said. “And we'll work with South Bend and improve this place, make it look respectable again. I look at these faces out here, you've got to think about how many prayers have been said, how many tears have been shed.”

John won’t be touching the monument of former Vice President of the United States Schuyler Colfax — it has already been restored. But he’ll try to undo as much damage as he can to the remaining 14,000-plus stones and markers that remain during his two-week stint here.

“It’s really a lot more than just a collection of stones, you know. So, if this is not worth saving, if this history is not worth saving, where do we stop? Do we get rid of history books? Do we fire history teachers? Do we quit telling young kids about the history? This is why it’s important to me to save these old graveyards,” he said.

Graveyard Groomer is based in Connersville, Indiana, but works on cemeteries throughout the Midwest.

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