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Society restores cemetery obelisks

VIENNA — Efforts by the Vienna Historical Society and township officials have made it possible to get historic obelisks at the Vienna Cemetery repaired and straightened.

An obelisk is a stone pillar, typically having a square or rectangular cross section and a pyramidal top, set up as a monument or landmark. The obelisk symbolizes immortality.

Christine Novicky, historical society president, said the cemetery has many obelisks, with some from the 1880s.

She said the society received a $1,000 grant to help fix the obelisks and a $1,000 private donation also was received. Vienna township trustees also donated $3,000. The $1,000 grant was from the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing.

“We want to try and fix as many obelisks that we can. There are about 15 that need to be fixed. We are excited to be able to get some of these done,” she said.

Some of the obelisks are leaning over and creating a hazard, and others have fallen over. Some obelisks are 18 feet tall.

Total cost for all 15 obelisks is about $30,000, Novicky said.

“It’s a slow process, but we’re going to try and fix them one at a time,” she said.

Plans are to get at least three done and also clean the marker headstones.

Novicky said concerns are someone mowing the lawn at the cemetery may accidentally knock one over. She said township officials realized it is a safety issue.

Tim Foor of Hallowed Ground Cemetery Preservation, a conservationist and a cemetery sexton in the Columbus area, said he is with the Preserving Ohio Cemeteries group and met Novicky last year.

Foor and his son, Mike Foor, used a tripod to lift parts of the obelisk and then disassemble it. Gravel also was placed by the obelisks and markers around the base.

One obelisk is next to the mausoleum. Foor said $5,000 covered the work on three obelisks.

“The problem that happens with the tall obelisks is, if someone is mowing or working and they bump into it, once you get it leaning to a certain point the top part may fall over. It will not take much pressure if it is already leaning or off balance to fall over,” Foor said.

He said the obelisks are very heavy with some weighing 200 pounds so it is important to get them leveled — making it harder to move.

Foor, who has workshops on what he does, said he was glad to be able to spend some time on Father’s Day weekend with his son when they started the work in Vienna.

Foor, starting four years ago, has been all over the state and to North Carolina helping with obelisks and other markers.

“It’s seasonal work, but we stay busy,” Foor said.

Foor, who runs a cemetery in Delaware County, said he took classes on resetting monuments and markers and has worked at many cemeteries helping different organizations and societies.

He said he not only does the work at the cemeteries, but also learns some of the history of people buried there.

The Vienna Historical Society members have worked to clean, reset and straighten old headstones in the township.

“A lot of people that are descendants still live in the area and are always curious about where their relatives are buried. We want to make sure that the headstones are straight and cleaned,” Novicky said.

“We do what we can as volunteers to do smaller projects and straighten markers, but with bigger projects we get professional help,” Novicky said.

She said society members also will go to smaller cemeteries, such as Dunlap and Doud, to clean the headstones to make them easier to read.

“We will continue working on cemetery documentations,” she said.

The society will take part in Vienna Home Day with a display on Aug. 13.

The society also has returned to in-person programming at its monthly meetings, held the last Tuesday of the month.

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