Using a chisel and hammer, Chris Smith chips away white mortar from the headstone of the infant son of R. and Eleanor Irwin, "God for him his angels sent," can be read. The inscription will become gradually more legible from being sprayed by volunteers with D/2 Biological Solution (TM). Next to the infant's headstone, sits that of George W. Caskedy. "Not a lot of information is available on Caskedy," said Priscilla Hudson, Sequim Prairie Garden Club historian, "because he was such a young kid. His father was W.M. Caskedy, born in Ohio. His mother Emma was born in Minnesota." Caskedy was fifteen when he died. Hudson said that there was no death certificate or newspaper reference, and nothing at the LDS family history center. "I'm assuming the father did logging," as they moved quite a bit, with residences in Blynn, Sequim, and Rema, all logging areas. George Caskedy's headstone was cleaned and reset in the corner of Pioneer Memorial Park with a collection of other headstones from the late 1800s to the early 1900s by volunteers this autumn. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

‘Gone but not forgotten’: Sequim club using modern Methods to Honor the dead

  • Wednesday, October 20, 2021 1:30am
  • Life

“George is gone but not forgotten,” reads the inscription on George W. Caskedy’s headstone. The 15-year-old George died July 8, 1904, his exact age meticulously carved into limestone.

Members of the Sequim Prairie Garden Club and the Michael Trebert Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and other volunteers, under guidance from National Historical Preservationist Marion “Mick” Hersey, have been working to ensure that his inscription stays true 117 years later, although all who knew him have now passed on.

“When you’re doing restoration, your ultimate goal is to make it better and more visible than what you started with,” said Hersey, who came several times from Kitsap County to volunteer his help improving the memorial of more than two dozen headstones clustered together in the southwest corner of Pioneer Memorial Park.

Last Saturday, a group of about a dozen volunteers — including 3-year-old Addy — gathered to reattach headstones to matching bases and continue cleaning and piecing together broken headstones.

When the memorial was first created in 1967, the headstones were mortared to improperly matched foundations, and the concrete they were placed in was poured without much preparation of the ground.

Each generation of preservationists did the “best it could,” according to Sequim Prairie Garden Club historian Priscilla Hudson, during the era in which they were responsible for the remains of the cemetery located on the 4 acres deeded in 1888 to Clallam County by John Bell — which over time became the verdant park on East Washington Street.

The Garden Club has been caring for the property for more 70 years, since January 8, 1951, “(when) the club voted to improve the old cemetery grounds … to give the town of Sequim a park of which to be proud,” according to “Sequim Prairie Garden Club and Pioneer Memorial Park: the Early Years,” a history compiled by Hudson and Laura Singer.

Today’s preservationists are working on the possible last phase of a century long intermittent effort to preserve the headstones of Pioneer Memorial Park, following modern methods taught by Hersey.

Using a combination of hand tools, power tools, Orvus detergent, epoxy and a cleaner called D/2 Biological Solution (TM) , they detached headstones from mismatched foundation stones, cleaned them, chipped or ground away old white mortar and epoxied broken pieces together, then epoxied them to matching bases in an effort to preserve the memory of these people who once walked the streets of Sequim — people once known and beloved, whose stones are now a reminder of the passage of time and the transience of human life within the city.

Hersey said that next spring when the air is warm enough, Lithomex will be applied to seal the uneven areas between the headstones and bases.

Members of the Garden Club said they are considering repainting the parts of the headstones that originally had color in spring as well.

Closing time

According to Hudson and Singer’s history, by 1909 the little Sequim Cemetery had been Sequim’s only cemetery for 20 years. But by 1919 it was closed.

“The high water table at that time was causing problems – caskets would sometimes float to the surface,” the history notes. “The land was next to a field occasionally flooded by run-off from Bell Creek and at times became a marsh.”

The Sequim Cemetery Association decided to close the cemetery and relocate as many of the burials and gravestones as they had family permission and ability to do. Many of those are now at the Sequim View Cemetery just north of city limits.

Caretakers did their best, but some grave markers were left behind, either because the families of that time insisted they stay, or relatives were not located.

“The now abandoned 4-acre plot,” the history records, “became a thicket of blackberry vines, cattle wandered through, and the remaining markers were broken or tumbled over and pieces were scattered all over the deserted cemetery.”

In October 1964, the garden club voted to create a “pioneer memorial using the gravestones that remained in the park,” according to the history. “The stones had been gathered in the southwest corner of the property, moved there as they were found during the years of burning, plowing, and cultivating of the park grounds.”

Between the 1960s and 198os, vandals stole and broke parts of the memorial, leading the club to build a fence around it in 1982.

Readable markers

Garden club members are discussing making times in which visitors can enter the memorial to look closely at the headstones, which under Hersey’s tutelage are becoming more and more legible.

He credits it to the cleaner called D/2. He said that after cleaning the stones with a soft brush and Orvus detergent (1TBSP per 3-4 gallons of water), the stones are sprayed with full-strength D/2. The D/2 is left for 5-15 minutes before being wiped. An immediate effect can be seen, but over time the D/2 penetrates the layers of biological material that have built up in the stone and removes them for a dramatic effect.

“The difference is just unbelievable – they were all just black and we couldn’t read the names,” said Suzan Mannisto, Garden Club member.

“D/2 was originally intended to keep fruit from yellowing, or turning brown for photography,”said Hersey. “And when the guy dipped the apple in it, he dripped some on his concrete floor. And noticed all of a sudden it was clean.” Hersey emphasized that the D/2 is safe and non-toxic, and volunteers backed him up, saying it got on their hands with no repercussions.

“D/2 Biological Solution is non-mutagenic, and contains no carcinogenic compounds as defined by NTP, IARC, or OSHA. It is considered essentially non-toxic by swallowing, as it has an oral LD50 of 2.0 g/kg of body weight. No special ventilation is required during use,” says the website for D/2 (d2bio.com)

Both Hersey and Hudson have been cleaning and honoring graves since they were children.

“Honor and respect is key,” said Hudson, who credits her Polish and German ancestors for their tradition of honoring the dead by keeping cemeteries clean and frequently visited.

“The cemeteries are the most important thing in a community.”

They are our connection to the past Hudson said, and, “they provide invaluable information for genealogists.”

Hersey said he’s been cleaning headstones since he was about 12.

“My grandparents, we used to go out on Memorial Day — back in the old days it was Decoration Day — and you would literally clean up your graves of your ancestors that have passed before you back in South Dakota,” he said.

“And over the years the techniques have changed. We used to use soap and water or bleach. Nowadays they tell you don’t use bleach, don’t use soap. Bleach soaks into all the cracks and fractures your stone and soap leaves a residue. What happens when you have a residue— it molds and mildews. So next year, it’s even worse to try to clean it.”

Hersey credits a man in Florida known as “the Good Cemeterian” with teaching him the “Do No Harm technique,” which features Orvus and D/2. He said he has been teaching the technique for the past five years, but has been restoring memorials for more than a decade.

“I don’t just honor the dead; I honor our veterans,” Hersey said. “And that’s what started me on my quest. I’m a veteran myself — 23 years in the Navy. And what started me was in 2011 in Bremerton.”

According to an article in the Kitsap Sun by Ed Friedrich, during a walk three years ago, the East Bremerton man discovered an overgrown memorial at the end of Manette Bridge in Bremerton. The Daughters of the American Revolution had erected it to remember the first school and an Indian lodge that had been on the site.

“He helped the group clear the brush, then cleaned and restored the monument, the article noted. “That escalated to the repainting of 200 faded plaques on the Bremerton Boardwalk. He has since evolved from a one-man show to ringleader, taking on bigger projects such as NAD Park and its jet by rounding up labor, supplies and food.”

Hersey is credited with “refurbishing every veteran memorial in the County,” wrote Friedrich.

From there he has worked on projects around the state.

“One thing led to the next and next thing I knew people were calling me the Historical Memorial Preservationist,” said Hersey, who received the title in an award.

“In Bremerton alone we have over 100 veterans memorials and when I first started the project, they told me there were only 26 so a lot of what I do is to bring the attention — just like right now with this one.”

Hudson said she wants the community to know that garden club members have tried to take care of this part of Sequim’s history.

“It’s important for the future generations to know that there is a cemetery there,” she said.

“The whole park was created by the community – the garden club organized it, but the whole community was involved in creating it. The history of the park is intertwined with the history of the city.”

Editor’s note: Sequim Prairie Garden Club members ask that people who took pieces of the headstones through the years, perhaps funding them scattered throughout the park and taking them as souvenirs, to consider returning them so the club can continue to piece together the markers. — MD

SPGC funding

The Sequim Prairie Garden Club is accepting donations to help the club’s overall funding, which took a significant hit during the COVID-19 pandemic when members were not able to rent out the Pioneer Memorial Park clubhouse, a primary source of club funding. To donate or for more information, go to sequimprairiegardenclub.org.

Priscilla Hudson of the Sequim Prairie Garden Club compiled a history of the club and Pioneer Memorial Park in Sequim with Laura Singer in which readers can find more information about the headstones clustered in the corner of the park, a reminder that the 4 acres was a cemetery at the turn of the 20th century. Behind Hudson, volunteers work to restore the headstones of people who died more than a hundred years ago.

Priscilla Hudson of the Sequim Prairie Garden Club compiled a history of the club and Pioneer Memorial Park in Sequim with Laura Singer in which readers can find more information about the headstones clustered in the corner of the park, a reminder that the 4 acres was a cemetery at the turn of the 20th century. Behind Hudson, volunteers work to restore the headstones of people who died more than a hundred years ago.

Pieces of headstones which were once scattered around Pioneer Memorial Park in Sequim before being gathered into a memorial corner which was vandalized between the 1960s and ’80s wait to be pieced together by volunteers from the community, the Sequim Prairie Garden Club and the Michael Trebert Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The preservationists requested that any pieces of headstones that are in the possession of the community be returned so that the stones can be restored completely. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

Pieces of headstones which were once scattered around Pioneer Memorial Park in Sequim before being gathered into a memorial corner which was vandalized between the 1960s and ’80s wait to be pieced together by volunteers from the community, the Sequim Prairie Garden Club and the Michael Trebert Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The preservationists requested that any pieces of headstones that are in the possession of the community be returned so that the stones can be restored completely. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

Marianne Burton of the Michael Trebert Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, sprays a solution called D/2 (TM) on the headstone of Joseph Cosentine as part of an effort to restore and preserve the headstones of Pioneer Memorial Park in Sequim, which used to be a cemetery before flooding from Bell Creek caused it to close in 1919. Most of the graves and headstones were removed but some headstones remain in a corner of the park. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

Marianne Burton of the Michael Trebert Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, sprays a solution called D/2 (TM) on the headstone of Joseph Cosentine as part of an effort to restore and preserve the headstones of Pioneer Memorial Park in Sequim, which used to be a cemetery before flooding from Bell Creek caused it to close in 1919. Most of the graves and headstones were removed but some headstones remain in a corner of the park. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

Chris Smith scrapes away old white mortar off the headstone of Oscar Larson, a Swedish native who arrived in New York in 1881. Larson’s sister lived in New Dungeness, and he worked at the lumber mill in Port Discovery. Larson had his citizenship signed at the Superior Court of New Dungeness in 1895 with two signed character witnesses. Larson’s headstone was attached to an unmatching base in the 1960s, when the Sequim Prairie Garden Club made a memorial corner for the headstones that were left in Pioneer Memorial Park after the majority of the cemetery was relocated in the early 1900s. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

Chris Smith scrapes away old white mortar off the headstone of Oscar Larson, a Swedish native who arrived in New York in 1881. Larson’s sister lived in New Dungeness, and he worked at the lumber mill in Port Discovery. Larson had his citizenship signed at the Superior Court of New Dungeness in 1895 with two signed character witnesses. Larson’s headstone was attached to an unmatching base in the 1960s, when the Sequim Prairie Garden Club made a memorial corner for the headstones that were left in Pioneer Memorial Park after the majority of the cemetery was relocated in the early 1900s. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

Suzan Mannisto points to the floral decoration on the headstone of Sarah Travers — the Sequim Prairie Garden Club may paint it next spring. According to Patricia Hudson, historian, Sarah was born in 1835 of French Indian parentage, and married Captain Robert Warren Travers in 1868 in Sequim. The couple had one son, George Warren Travers. Their only daughter, Margaret Jane, was born in 1870 at Port Williams, married Albert Edward Simmons on July 2nd, 1889 in New Dungeness, WA and died there on July 4th, 1953; they had 2 sons and 1 daughter. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

Suzan Mannisto points to the floral decoration on the headstone of Sarah Travers — the Sequim Prairie Garden Club may paint it next spring. According to Patricia Hudson, historian, Sarah was born in 1835 of French Indian parentage, and married Captain Robert Warren Travers in 1868 in Sequim. The couple had one son, George Warren Travers. Their only daughter, Margaret Jane, was born in 1870 at Port Williams, married Albert Edward Simmons on July 2nd, 1889 in New Dungeness, WA and died there on July 4th, 1953; they had 2 sons and 1 daughter. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

The joint headstone of John and Jane Govan, son and wife of John Govan, waits to be fitted to its proper base after being scraped of old white mortar by volunteers in Sequim’s Pioneer Memorial Park. “This family did a lot with engineering roads,” said Priscilla Hudson, historian of the Sequim Prairie Garden Club and Pioneer Memorial Park. The Govans were “well-established in the public sector”; they built roads and held important jobs in transportation. Jane and John were born in Scotland, as was their first son, John. They waited at a farm that had been in the family for 200 years until the baby was old enough to take the ocean voyage to the USA. They settled in Sequim after spending 3 years in Oregon. The couple had 8-10 children, but after their eldest, John, was killed at 25-years-old on New Years Eve, 1885 in Dungeness Bay, Hudson said Jane “was overcome with grief, and took her own life” in 1890. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

The joint headstone of John and Jane Govan, son and wife of John Govan, waits to be fitted to its proper base after being scraped of old white mortar by volunteers in Sequim’s Pioneer Memorial Park. “This family did a lot with engineering roads,” said Priscilla Hudson, historian of the Sequim Prairie Garden Club and Pioneer Memorial Park. The Govans were “well-established in the public sector”; they built roads and held important jobs in transportation. Jane and John were born in Scotland, as was their first son, John. They waited at a farm that had been in the family for 200 years until the baby was old enough to take the ocean voyage to the USA. They settled in Sequim after spending 3 years in Oregon. The couple had 8-10 children, but after their eldest, John, was killed at 25-years-old on New Years Eve, 1885 in Dungeness Bay, Hudson said Jane “was overcome with grief, and took her own life” in 1890. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

Marion “Mick” Hersey checks the placement of the headstone of the 15-year-old son of E.C. and M.E. Payne. Hersey is a National Historical Preservationist and Navy veteran from Kitsap County, who came to Sequim to help members of the Sequim Prairie Garden Club and other volunteers repair headstones in the Pioneer Memorial Park. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

Marion “Mick” Hersey checks the placement of the headstone of the 15-year-old son of E.C. and M.E. Payne. Hersey is a National Historical Preservationist and Navy veteran from Kitsap County, who came to Sequim to help members of the Sequim Prairie Garden Club and other volunteers repair headstones in the Pioneer Memorial Park. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

The headstone of J.F. Lowe was pieced together and repaired by members of the Sequim Prairie Garden Club and the Micheal Trebort branch of the Daughters of the American Revolution and other volunteers under the guidance of Marion”Mick” Hersey, National Historical Preservationist. Lowe was born in 1854, died 1903, and was buried in the Sequim cemetery which became Pioneer Memorial Park. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

The headstone of J.F. Lowe was pieced together and repaired by members of the Sequim Prairie Garden Club and the Micheal Trebort branch of the Daughters of the American Revolution and other volunteers under the guidance of Marion”Mick” Hersey, National Historical Preservationist. Lowe was born in 1854, died 1903, and was buried in the Sequim cemetery which became Pioneer Memorial Park. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

Marion “Mick” Hersey explains how to use a specific epoxy to affix headstones to basestones in a cemetery preservation. He said the epoxy would “last forever”. Hersey, National Historical Preservationist, came from Kitsap County to help other volunteers in a restoration effort at Sequim’s Pioneer Memorial Park. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

Marion “Mick” Hersey explains how to use a specific epoxy to affix headstones to basestones in a cemetery preservation. He said the epoxy would “last forever”. Hersey, National Historical Preservationist, came from Kitsap County to help other volunteers in a restoration effort at Sequim’s Pioneer Memorial Park. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

Suzan Mannisto chips away at old mortar during a restoration effort at Sequim’s Pioneer Memorial Park. Mannisto and her husband, Daniel Mannisto, took before and after pictures of the changes made by an all-volunteer crew in a fenced corner of the park.

Suzan Mannisto chips away at old mortar during a restoration effort at Sequim’s Pioneer Memorial Park. Mannisto and her husband, Daniel Mannisto, took before and after pictures of the changes made by an all-volunteer crew in a fenced corner of the park.

Volunteers work to improve the memorial corner created by Sequim Prairie Garden Club members in the 1960s at Pioneer Memorial Park. The history of the club and the park are intertwined, and from the beginning the club has cared for this 4 acre former cemetery with the aid of community members, turning it into the lush park off Washington Street that all residents and visitors can enjoy. The headstones in the memorial corner were fenced in the early 1980s due to vandalism that occurred through the years. Current members of the club requested that anyone in the community who may have a piece of one of the stones to please return it. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

Volunteers work to improve the memorial corner created by Sequim Prairie Garden Club members in the 1960s at Pioneer Memorial Park. The history of the club and the park are intertwined, and from the beginning the club has cared for this 4 acre former cemetery with the aid of community members, turning it into the lush park off Washington Street that all residents and visitors can enjoy. The headstones in the memorial corner were fenced in the early 1980s due to vandalism that occurred through the years. Current members of the club requested that anyone in the community who may have a piece of one of the stones to please return it. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

Volunteers work to improve the memorial corner created by Sequim Prairie Garden Club members in the 1960s at Pioneer Memorial Park. The history of the Garden Club and the park are intertwined, and from the beginning the club has cared for this 4 acre former cemetery with the aid of community members, turning it into the lush park off Washington Street that all residents and visitors can enjoy. The headstones in the memorial corner were fenced in the early 1980s due to vandalism that occurred through the years. Current members of the club requested that anyone in the community who may have a piece of one of the stones to please return it so they can piece together more of the headstones. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

Volunteers work to improve the memorial corner created by Sequim Prairie Garden Club members in the 1960s at Pioneer Memorial Park. The history of the Garden Club and the park are intertwined, and from the beginning the club has cared for this 4 acre former cemetery with the aid of community members, turning it into the lush park off Washington Street that all residents and visitors can enjoy. The headstones in the memorial corner were fenced in the early 1980s due to vandalism that occurred through the years. Current members of the club requested that anyone in the community who may have a piece of one of the stones to please return it so they can piece together more of the headstones. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

In general, power tools aren’t used during cemetery restorations, according to Marion “Mick” Hersey, National Historical Preservationist. In this case, Roy Harlson is using (?) to grind away old mortar from a base stone which had been combined with an unmatching headstone. This mistake was made in the 1960s when a memorial corner was created in the corner of Sequim Pioneer Memorial Park. Members of the Sequim Prairie Garden Club and Michael Trebert Chapter of the DAR, as well as other volunteers, worked to fix past mistakes and vandalism under the tutelage of Hersey this autumn and will finish their work in the spring. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

In general, power tools aren’t used during cemetery restorations, according to Marion “Mick” Hersey, National Historical Preservationist. In this case, Roy Harlson is using (?) to grind away old mortar from a base stone which had been combined with an unmatching headstone. This mistake was made in the 1960s when a memorial corner was created in the corner of Sequim Pioneer Memorial Park. Members of the Sequim Prairie Garden Club and Michael Trebert Chapter of the DAR, as well as other volunteers, worked to fix past mistakes and vandalism under the tutelage of Hersey this autumn and will finish their work in the spring. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen

Karla Morgan cleans pieces of headstones broken by either vandalism, weather, or improper care in the more than 100 years they lay in Pioneer Memorial Park in Sequim. Morgan was one of many volunteers who gathered under the guidance of National Historical Preservationist Marion “Mick” Hersey to fix headstones using modern methods, some learned from “The Good Cemeterian” of Florida. Sequim Gazette photos by Emily Matthiessen

Karla Morgan cleans pieces of headstones broken by either vandalism, weather, or improper care in the more than 100 years they lay in Pioneer Memorial Park in Sequim. Morgan was one of many volunteers who gathered under the guidance of National Historical Preservationist Marion “Mick” Hersey to fix headstones using modern methods, some learned from “The Good Cemeterian” of Florida. Sequim Gazette photos by Emily Matthiessen

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