Working all by yourself in a cemetery is probably not most students’ idea of a fun project.
Shayla VonBargen, who will graduate with Prairie High School’s Class of 2016 on May 27, took on the unusual senior project of doing just that.
She cleaned headstones in the Keuterville and Cottonwood cemeteries. She said she got the idea during her uncle Clint’s funeral when she and her grandma Donna Ross were noticing some of the headstones were getting in pretty bad shape. She felt it was sad, especially if they were someone who doesn’t have any family around anymore to take care of the markers.
She did most of the work during the summer months, mostly early in the mornings. Shayla said you would think it might be a little creepy being all alone in a cemetery but she actually enjoyed it, saying it was very peaceful and calming. Of course it may have been different if she had been there after dark. Also she wasn’t always there all by herself. Her mother, grandmother, sister and even PHS teacher Travis Mader, were among those who helped out at different times.
She said she used mostly bleach and water as well as Lime-away for some of the more difficult ones. She also made use of a spackling spatula to scrape away some of the more stubborn lichen and a screwdriver to help clean out engraved lettering.
Shayla said she would definitely recommend this to future students as a senior project.
The accompanying photos were provided by her mother, Jeannie VonBargen, and the before and after photos show the dramatic difference Shayla made.
Shayla VonBargen’s senior project was cleaning up gravestones. Here she is seen cleaning moss and lichen out of the engraving on a stone. Photo by Jeannie VonBargen.
Before and after of one of the gravestones Shayla VonBargen cleaned. Photos by Jeannie VonBargen.