A Monumental Task

Audio Visual Material

"The pandemic presented an opportunity for our family to turn a hobby and long time interest into an unusual niche small business." People depicted: Burke and Amy Greear. Description and essay submitted by the creator.
On our very first date, my husband of 17 years asked if he could take me to a cemetery. No nefarious activities were involved! He just liked cemeteries and it turns out so did I. Both of us had an interest in history, particularly the local histories of our community in Southwest Virginia. Our cemeteries are filled with treasured pasts — often depicted in the legacies remembered on grave monuments that range from simple and humble to elaborate and ornate. The decoration of the stone, the epitaphs, the lives imagined, are fascinating. My husband’s interests in history led him to seek a degree in Museum Studies and eventually to his career as a park ranger. His duties include maintenance of a cemetery and he has been trained in the proper care and restoration of gravestones which requires use of specialized biological cleaning agents that will not damage the stone. Over the last decade, he began cleaning our family gravestones that were often covered with growth or pollutants that were detrimental to the stones and made them impossible to read. During the initial days of the pandemic, he was furloughed. To bring in income, he cleaned gravestones for private individuals. He would clean veterans and infant stones at no cost. Those projects generated interest and more work and in November 2020, he was asked to restore an entire cemetery of 35 stones for a neighborhood association. At that point, we decided to take a leap of faith. In January 2021, we opened Highland Monument Conservation, a small business specializing in the preservation of stone monuments and grave statuary. Currently we are working on a project to restore the Estill Cemetery in Gate City, Va. The cemetery contains 350 monuments with the earliest dating to the 1830’s. I’m sure some people think we’re a bit strange — it can be awkward explaining to folks the kind of business we have. But we believe that our cemeteries are places to be revered and that this work is honorable and important. This video is of me cleaning the stone of Mr. Bishop, who lived and died in the 1800’s in Scott County, Va and is buried on a hillside along the Devil’s Race Path at the foot of the Cumberland Gap. There are thousands of cemeteries dotting the Appalachian mountainsides. Each contain the people who struggled, built, and created the place we know today. We owe them a debt and we should respect and honor their remaining legacies.
Greear, Amy (photographer)
Greear, Amy (written by)
Greear, Amy (written by)
Media Type
Moving Image

Related Collection
Creating in Place Project Collection
Related Place
Yuma, VA