TWINSBURG — Cemeteries are a solemn place, where the names of movers and shakers of late and long ago can be viewed and honored by members of today’s society.
Unfortunately as the years go by, some of those names disappear as gravestones weather, crack and fall into disrepair.
Now, one Twinsburg resident is doing his part to see that the gravestones in Locust Grove Cemetery continue to bear those names with clarity for decades to come.
Ed Ponter, 60, a native of New York who moved to Ohio about 40 years ago, is a member and trustee of the Twinsburg Historical Society who has spruced up more than 100 formerly neglected gravestones over the last three years.
His restored gravestones now stand out among the many others that are weather-beaten.
"Ed is a very humble person who does this for the love of history and its preservation," said Twinsburg Historical Society President Andy Tomko. "Comments from many of the city’s residents indicate that they appreciate what he does."
"When I started this, there were many stones that were in bad shape; they were cracked and some had fallen over," Ponter said.
"I thought it was sad that the graves of many prominent local residents — some of whom were pioneers who built Twinsburg — were in such disrepair, so I began my work.
"Our town would not be here if not for those pioneers. My work is something that’s near and dear to my heart."
While speaking with a cemetery caretaker in Bedford two years ago, Ponter was told about a company — Graveyard Groomers — that restores old gravestones for families and civic groups. It also offers a hands-on workshop in gravestone restoration, so Ponter traveled to Connersville, Ind., to take the class.
He met the founder of Graveyard Groomers — Walt Walters — and after completing the workshop he returned to Twinsburg to start his mission at Locust Grove.
Ponter scrubs the stones to remove the lichens and black moss with an ammonia and water solution, then polishes the surface. He also reattaches cracked off pieces with an epoxy to prevent water from getting into the cracks and breaking apart again.
Ponter said although warmer weather is best for working on the gravestones, he manages to keep busy in winter, too, taking broken pieces to his home and repairing them.
He said many of the stones he has cleaned and repaired date back to the earliest burials in the cemetery.
Ponter and Tomko said the historical society uses events such as the annual "Tales of Locust Grove" to fund work by Graveyard Groomers. In the last couple of years, a crew has visited Locust Grove for two days to work on intense stone repairs.
Historical society member Dale Diersing said Walters originally worked for a county mowing its cemeteries. After tiring of mowing around broken gravestones, he developed an interest in fixing them.
He later did the same thing for the state before founding Graveyard Groomers, which visits cemeteries in seven states.
The larger monuments are disassembled, cracks are repaired and the bases are re-leveled by the company.
Tomko said the historical society has contacted officials at Twinsburg High School in an effort to bolster Ponter’s headstone restoration efforts by offering "internships" to teach students the "dying art" of gravestone restoration.
"We’re waiting to hear back from them [school officials]," said Tomko. "We’re seeking students interested in preserving history so they can work with Ed.
"There will come a time when we old-timers won’t be here, and we’d like to see the younger generation develop a passion for preserving history far into the future."
A photo display board featuring Ponter’s cemetery work graces the historical society’s Freeman Barn at Routes 91 and 82. Visitors who look to the left as they enter the barn can see an example of what the gravestones of Zeno Parmelee and his wives looked like before and after being cleaned and repaired.
Tomko said some of the earliest burials in Twinsburg took place in a former cemetery on the northwest corner of the square, and many of the bodies eventually were moved to Locust Grove.
Diersing said Locust Grove burials began in 1846 on 1 1/2 acres and initially there were 130 lots. There are at least 1,713 burials there now.
The cemetery is divided into eight sections, and many of the community’s early citizens are buried there, including the Wilcox twins, Ethan Alling and the Rev. Samuel Bissell.
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