R.I.P.: “Restoration in Progress”

Eight years ago, Green-Wood launched its “Restoration in Progress” program. At the cutting edge of cemetery monument restorations, it has, since its founding, been led by Frank Morelli. Frank has studied gravestone restoration and has pioneered in the use of a broad range of techniques, including the use of molds to recreate casts of missing hands and heads. He heads a four-man crew, consisting of Bagdan Kubiszowiski, Gus Padilla, and Felipe Hernandez, who have been trained in the appropriate restoration techniques.

Fortunately, this program was in place when it was needed–in the last two weeks–to deal with the toppling and shattering of Green-Wood memorials that occurred on August 21. Many of the monuments, after being toppled, remained intact, and were lifted back in place. But, sadly, others were shattered in pieces. That’s where our “Restoration in Progress” team stepped in.

Last Friday, I was out on the grounds to see what was going on. Frank was out with his crew, working on a brownstone monument that had been shattered into pieces. On close examination, it was apparent that there had been some earlier deterioration to this 19th-century monument, deterioration that made it that much easier to knock it over. A piece at the base had broken off years ago–perhaps split off by freezing and thawing–and had weakened the iron pins that were anchoring the monument to its base.

The monument base, epoxied and clamped, waiting for the epoxy to dry and the clamps to be removed. Note the two rusty iron pins; though these are very typical for 19th-century monuments, they do not hold up all that well--and when they rust, they expand and may crack the stone around them.
These stones are heavy. So a tripod is used to lift the damaged pieces onto the repair table. Then holes are drilled at the breaks and steel pins are glued in place to hold the pieces together. From left to right, camerawoman/reporter for News 12 Katie Lusso, R.I.P. Supervisor Frank Morelli, Gus Padilla, and Felipe Hernandez.
Here's a close-up of the complete break that occurred when the stone was pushed over and crashed to the ground. Note the poem: Short is the race our friend has run, Cut down in all her bloom, The course but yesterday began, Now Finished in the Tomb.

Fortunately, with the training and the skill of our restorers, this memorial will be put back together again. But no amount of skill will hide the scars that it will bear forever.

We at Green-Wood have been very moved by the extensive press coverage and the many notes of sympathy, as well as donations, that we have received in the wake of this vandalism. On Tuesday, The New York Times ran an editorial, by Francis X. Clines of its editorial board, about Green-Wood. You can find it here.

And, News 12 aired and posted a video of their report of the restoration work, in progress, from last Friday. You will find it here.


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