Veterans remembered at Port Dover Cemetery

 

By Susan Graci

WITH Remembrance Day approaching and the public ceremonies, it is also important to remember those quiet spots in local cemeteries where grave markers name those individuals who served.
Veterans Affairs Canada ensures that grave markers, all across Canada, represent those lives with dignity and honour.
J&M Memorials, on Highway 6, just west of Port Dover, has been working to clean, maintain and repair markers in the Port Dover Cemetery.
“There are between 40 and 45 markers here,” says Debra Mauthe, of J&M Memorials, looking over an area on the north edge of the cemetery that shows signs of their recent labour. They have completed the work, with all the grave markers installed by Veterans Affairs restored and cleaned.

Above: Some of the grey granite grave markers for veterans at Port Dover Cemetery.

The grave markers sit squarely on cement pads, levelled and straightened, clean of debris and dirt. These markers are made of grey granite without a polished finish, regardless of where in Canada they are situated.
“Some of the markers are scattered throughout this cemetery, rather than being placed together in one spot,” Debra says. “We were given GPS information but some were still hard to find.”
“It’s my understanding that in the next three years Veterans Affairs is trying to (repair and maintain) all of Ontario,” says Debra, “and (the grave markers) will all be raised and recognized and cleaned.” Graves without a marker will have a marker placed.
On a recent cold, windy, wet day, Debra and her sons, Peter and Hayden, also in the business, talked about their work.
The passion and respect they have for those whose graves they tend is obvious. They take pride in the rows of straight, levelled, clean grave markers and follow very strict processes when doing work for Veterans Affairs. There is a specific chemical put on the granite markers that removes the discolouration. The sun works with this chemical to keep the granite free of moss which obscures the inscriptions. It helps also with the staining that is the result of the markers lying flat on the ground, where water is a constant presence.
The markers are washed with, of all things, Dawn dish soap! That too is mandated by Veterans Affairs. And, adds Deb, “we use Sunlight in our business but for these, it has to be Dawn.”
Completing all of the grave markers in the Port Dover Cemetery took almost two weeks.
“A lot of the work had to be done by hand because we couldn’t get the truck in and didn’t want to destroy anything. It’s very labour intensive,” said Hayden Mauthe.
It is a very regimented process, with communication and review by the government agency, ensuring the work that needs to be done gets done.
The site is marked with small white flags, seen in the photo, with the name and information taken directly from the marker, before it is removed for repairs.
Great care and attention is taken to properly mark the site during repairs. Once the grave marker has been returned to the site, the flag is removed.
“From beginning to end, to wash it, take it out and put it back, it’s about a half an hour to 45 minutes, per marker,” says Debra, adding that “when we take the pads off to level the area, we clean it at that point, then put it back in place, so we don’t bring the mud back onto the marker. It will be muddy until the grass grows back, but at least the mud isn’t on the marker.”
The markers are cemented onto the pads and then placed on top of a mixture of soil and gravel to level them.
Veterans Affairs Canada has spent the last 15 years inspecting gravesites and grave markers across Canada. A database with hundreds of thousands of graves was created, which contains photos, GPS coordinates and assessments of the markers.
Using this information, their mandate is to repair and restore, as well as clean and maintain, these grave markers. The database is used to contract the repairs and maintenance. Details are at www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/financial-support/death-and-bereavement/grave-marker-maintenance
Veterans Affairs Canada also provides services to families of veterans for funeral and burial costs. Learn more at www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/financial-support/death-and-bereavement/funeral-burial-assistance.
This Remembrance Day, after attending a public ceremony, don’t forget to visit the cemeteries found in Norfolk County to pay a quiet respect to those who served. We owe them our freedom.

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