August 20, 2009

Local Resident Launches New Cemetery Service to Preserve Local History

Markers, monuments and memorials dot the countryside in at least 100 cemeteries in Scotland County alone. These gravestones mark the final resting place of thousands of former community members, maintaining their place in local history.

Memphis area resident Curt Bork recently embarked on a new business venture to help insure these commemorations withstand the test of time.

Bork’s venture, Cemetery Service, is offering cleaning, repair and conservation of historic gravestones, headstones and monuments.

Since relocating to Northeast Missouri a couple years ago, Curt has been searching for a new entrepreneurial activity.

“I have not drawn a corporate paycheck, other than those corporations that I’ve owned, since 1981, when I opened my first business venture, a medical electronics firm that specialized in the repair and remanufacture of medical x-ray devices,” Bork said.

That business was sold in 1996 to a group of East coast investors and since, Curt has dabbled in commercial real estate, antiques and collectibles (including eBay sales) and most recently the repair and restoration of vintage British sports cars.

Cemetery Services was born after Curt read a couple articles on the subject. That spurred some extensive online research that he carried over to the local level. Bork then attended workshops and seminars held by a nationally known “Gravestone Conservator” from Connecticut. Workshops were recently held in Liberty and Richmond, Missouri, the recent site of vandalism that damaged several hundred gravestones.

“Time will tell,” Bork said, “but this venture will attempt to provide a niche service to descendants, family members and cemetery management personnel.”

Curt notes that genealogy has always spurred activity in cemeteries. When family members travel to cemeteries doing research, they often desire to improve the appearance of the monuments or markers in an effort to conserve what remains of their ancestor’s memorial.

“I realize I’m not the only entity offering this type of service in the area,” Bork said. “But I’m the only business offering this as a primary service as opposed to a sideline to other ventures.”

Bork’s past business ventures have all centered around service and providing customers with quality and value for their money, on a timely basis.

With Cemetery Service, Bork will be rolling up his sleeves and getting dirty, since the bulk of the job entails physical labor, requiring specialized tooling and equipment for rigging, lifting and repositioning of the heavier monuments when foundation work is required.

“It’s not rocket science, but careful analysis and preplanning of each situation is required,” Bork said. “All excavation for foundations is manually done with shovels due to most cemetery layouts precluding power equipment accessibility.”

Bork recommends starting the process with a risk assessment. Markers and monuments that are tilted/leaning, not only are unsightly and complicate mowing operations, they pose distinct hazards to visitors and maintenance personnel. Several incidents over the past few years have occurred when markers have toppled from high winds, children playing on or near them or inadvertent mowing machine collisions. Serious injury and death have been the result.

He points out that no two monuments are the same, varying in initial installation (which could be 150 years ago), terrain characteristics, drainage and soil conditions of the cemetery, and material/construction of the marker.

Not all markers will require a “below frost line” new foundation. Some do, and certainly the larger monuments would require that approach for permanence. However a smaller marker or flat stone that has began to tilt or has shifted can often be restored plumb and sound by much less extensive and less costly means.

Multiple piece markers (stacked stones) should have their structural integrity restored through the use of masonry specific structural adhesives and monument setting compounds. Previous cement-type mortars can usually be improved upon with modern epoxy adhesives, when applied correctly.

Bork explains that conservation is a term applied to maintaining the material and gravestone in its present condition. Restoration could involve attempting to make them look “new” again, as in re-cutting inscriptions.

He noted that very little restoration is done or recommended. Any new cuts or resurfacing of an old stone will remove the aged patina on the surface, exposing pores that can often contribute to much more rapid deterioration in today’s harsh environment.

Similarly, modern cleaning techniques can also ultimately cause more harm than good. Typical household cleaners such as bleach, ammonia, pressure washing and sandblasting all can cause long-term damage to the stones.

For more information on Cemetery Services, offered by NEMO Services LLC, Curt Bork, owner, or for a no cost, no obligation quote you can call 660.945.3919 or 660.342.3485, e-mail at or send mail to RR 1 Box 128B, Memphis MO 63555.

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