Pictured at the Scared Heart Cemetery are Derek Auth, Tom Weber and Bernie Freiermuth as they pull to straighten a gravestone while Joe Schmitt, Logan Auth and Jeff Pelzel shovel crushed rock in below it. Submitted photo
Pictured at the Scared Heart Cemetery are Derek Auth, Tom Weber and Bernie Freiermuth as they pull to straighten a gravestone while Joe Schmitt, Logan Auth and Jeff Pelzel shovel crushed rock in below it. Submitted photo

Submitted by Jeff Pitman, Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Elmwood

ELMWOOD, WI – The respect a cemetery receives can often be judged by how well it is maintained; uncut grass, trees that haven't been trimmed in years, or far worse, gravestones that are tilting in every direction quickly provide the impression that no one cares about who lies buried there.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Elmwood has its cemetery two miles south, at Farm Hill. There lie over 400 graves, with the earliest from the 1870's.  But although otherwise well maintained we had a problem - several of the gravestones were leaning severely off-kilter. 

The team of Knights of Columbus from Elmwood righted 12 of the worst tilting gravestones at the Sacred Heart Farm Hill Cemetery on Saturday, September 23, 2017. This was our monthly "work outing."  The exercise required considerable muscle (no combustion engines were used), and not a little ingenuity. The trickiest part of the operation was packing crushed limestone underneath each gravestone while it was suspended via hand-held levers, without the gravestone slipping off the supporting levers and crushing the hands of those packing the limestone! 

The tools used to raise and straighten the gravestones were constructed by Tom Weber of Elmwood in his garage, using steel plates and pipes that he personally cut and welded.  He based the plans on similar tools seen on the Internet.  The only difference was that Tom's home built tools were far more robust and capable of lifting much greater weight.  With a previously delivered load of crushed limestone to use as fill, we carefully straightened and solidified the foundations of each of the gravestones.  

In the future, we intend this to be an annual event, always targeting any gravestone whose foundation needs assistance.