Packwood firefighters repair gravestones at Abingdon
Current and former members of the Packwood Fire Department have been donating their labor to fixing gravestones in the Abingdon Cemetery.
Packwood Fire Chief Dave Hollingsworth said 12 people spent five days – from Aug. 23 to Wednesday – laboring in the sweltering heat to dig holes and pour concrete. The volunteers uprighted and repaired 100 gravestones this year, twice as many as they did last year.
Funding for the concrete and excavation came from Fairfield resident Lee Gobble. In 2012, Gobble donated $5,000 to repair headstones at the cemetery. This year, Gobble doubled his donation to $10,000.
Hollingsworth said Gobble cares about Abingdon Cemetery because he has family members buried there and he himself plans to be buried there.
He said many headstones at the cemetery were in bad shape. Some were leaning so far to one side they were about to fall, while others had already fallen and had been lying on the ground for some time. He said the bases of many headstones had deteriorated throughout time.
Hollingsworth said he believes it is important for people to preserve cemeteries such as Abingdon’s.
“It’s our history,” he said. “Most of the stones don’t have family to take care of them. It was nice of Lee to donate money to fix them up.”
The volunteers dug holes for the headstones and built frames out of wood to hold the concrete. They brought in a cement truck to fill the holes. Since the space between the rows of headstones was too narrow for the cement truck to drive to each one, the volunteers had to think of another way of filling the holes.
To accommodate the tight passageways, the volunteers found smaller vehicles such as a tractor and a skid steer. They outfitted the tractor and skid steer with “buckets” of a sort to transport the concrete throughout the cemetery. Once the concrete was poured in a hole, a volunteer would place the headstone in the mix and smooth out the concrete so it was level with the wooden frame while ensuring the headstone was level with the ground.
Early in the process, the volunteers were transporting the concrete with wheelbarrows. Larry Sobaski suggested using the small vehicles instead, and that made the process much more efficient. Hollingsworth said the volunteers also dug holes much faster this year than last year because they used a different method this time around.
The Abingdon Cemetery has headstones that date to the mid-1800s, which can be found in the center of the cemetery, the oldest part.
Hollingsworth’s wife Jody Hollingsworth takes care of the cemetery by placing flags near the gravestones on Memorial Day.
Hollingsworth said the volunteers are nearly done repairing all the fallen headstones in the cemetery. However, he added there is plenty of work left to do on the property. Some of the headstones need to be reglued to their base while others need to be reset so they are upright.
Another project that will have to be attended to is removing old pine trees struck by lightning. Hollingsworth said he welcomes anyone who wants to help with these projects. He can be reached at 919-8045.