MIAMI — It’s quite the undertaking.
Jonathan Appell, founder of Connecticut-based Atlas Preservation, has embarked on a 48 States in 48 Days Gravestone Restoration Tour.
Miami will be the only cemetery in Oklahoma on Appell’s cross-country jaunt, which teaches how to clean, repair and reset gravestones and monuments.
Each stop will include the cleaning of veterans’ monuments.
The Restoration Tour stop will be here Thursday, Sept. 24 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at G.A.R. Cemetery.
Appell also is conducting workshops in the 48 locations.
The tour began Aug. 20 in Connecticut and continues through Oct. 7 at Frederick, Maryland.
Appell said he previously had been involved with modern monument installation, but became interested in the historical side of that.
“I was reading a lot, going to different groups, going to events, different conferences and on and on,” he said via phone on his way from Connersville, Indiana, to Fulton, Illinois. “As time went on, I became more interested in that and started to get more work in it.”
He said around 2000 he transitioned to the preservation aspect. As part of that, Appell did more and more workshops, getting calls to teach people things like cleaning monuments, repairing them and re-setting them.
Among the projects he has taken on is a gravestone in Jamestown, Virginia — the Knight’s Tombstone — which is believed to be the oldest gravestone in America. It’s the most viewed video at the Jamestown Rediscovery website with more than one million views.
Appell said COVID-19 totally wrecked his 2020 appearance and conference calendar. That’s when he came up with the idea for the tour.
“I figured a lot of people would have more time, but not necessarily more money since everyone was laid off,” he said, noting that he had intended to start it earlier but took longer to plan than expected.
“I have always wanted to teach people in practical hands-on skills to teach them how to do the work,” Appell said. “There are not that many experts in the field. On top of that, it was a personal challenge, kind of a herculean task to do it.”
He will stop at Wichita, Kansas, Sept. 8, and Shelbyville, Missouri, on Friday, Sept. 25.
“It’s a mission at this point to do it,” Appell said, noting that he’s had to work around coronavirus restrictions at the various locations.
The Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery is owned and operated by the City of Miami. It covers 86 acres, with more than 20,000 burial plots currently in place.
The oldest legibly marked grave is dated 1892.
It hosts an annual British Flyers Remembrance Ceremony in October, honoring the memory of 15 members of the Royal Air Force who were killed in crashes during training at the British Flying Training School #3 conducted here during World War II.
Information on the tour is located at www.48statetour.com.