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Century of grime to be removed from pioneer grave stones

Some of the grave markers in the Pioneer section of the Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery need preserving.
Image Credit: John McDonald
September 25, 2015 - 11:30 AM

KELOWNA – A new Kelowna workshop will teach you about history and how to properly restore a 100-year-old grave stone at the same time.

The Tombstone Preservation Workshop is the brainchild of the Kelowna Museum and will take 20 students to the Pioneer section of the Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery.

With a pail of water in one hand and a soft-bristled toothbrush in the other, teams of living humans will be instructed how to safely remove moss, dirt and a century worth of grime from the head stone of someone they never knew existed.

Cemetery manager David Gatzke says although grave stones, and the responsibility of their upkeep, are in the hands of the surviving family, those without direct descendants are just as important. The Pioneer section has more than 4,000 markers dating back to the 1800s. Many have no surviving family.

“We’re going off of best intentions,” he says. “People put the information on there in the first place because they want others to know they are there … and those are the ones we will work on. You certainly wouldn’t want to clean someone’s head stone and their brother shows up a week later and says he really liked the moss on it.”

The work will involve carefully removing growth and dirt and restoring the legibility of the inscribed text.

“Some people love to see the decay, the moss, but when you have so much it’s obscuring all the information … it would be nice to see the name.”

Many of those names will be familiar to the students as most streets in Kelowna were named after residents who lived and died here. A historical archivist will be on site to answers students’ questions and enhance the historical impact of the experience.

“Everyone’s got a story, you don’t have to be famous to have an interesting story,” he says. “(A grave marker) is a memorialization that lives forever but the stories only live on if people are there to hear them.”

The two-hour workshop takes place at the Pioneer section of the Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery Sept. 30 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Space is limited to 20 people for this workshop so participants must register by Sept. 26.

For more information, or to register, email Nikki Bose at or call 250-763-2417 ext. 26.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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