Goshen woman makes clean sweep of gravestones to honor veterans

Carol Check of Goshen Township uses a watering can to wet vintage grave markers before applying a special chemical treatment to clean them.

CANFIELD — Carol Check, 72, has found an interesting pastime in cleaning gravestones, mainly markers that date back to the late 1700s and early 1800s.

It started as a hobby to improve the look of some local cemeteries.

She targeted Old North Cemetery in Canfield recently because of the ties it has to her husband, Thomas Check. Thomas’ grandmother was Josephine Yeager. Her family was among the early residents of Austintown, Canfield and Berlin Center, she said. Many are buried in Old North.

As for Carol, she claims to be an “Army brat.” Her parents John and Leatrice Fowler experienced many moves, as John was in the Army and constantly was transferred.

“I was born in Maryland and moved to Tennessee, Kentucky, Panama, California, Kansas and Hawaii,” Carol said. “My father retired when I was 15.”

She met her husband John when he joined the Army at a California base. She found out he was from Austintown, so after the two married, they moved back to the area.

Carol worked as a nurse and retired a few years ago. With a little time on her hands, she noticed some grave markers in the area needed maintenance. She took it upon herself to begin cleaning headstones after she discovered how simple it is.

“I use a product called D-2, (a biological solution) used on the headstones at Arlington National Cemetery,” Carol said.

The process involves wetting a stone with water. Carol brings a bucket of water with a sprayer to handle that part. Then the wet stone is sprayed with the D-2 and is scrubbed with a brush. The final step is to rinse, and then nature takes over.

“The rain and sun bleaches the stone,” she said.

Her focus with the cleaning project is on Ellsworth and Old North cemeteries.

Her other passion is genealogy, and through her research, she has discovered many graves at Old North that are tied to her husband’s ancestors.

“The Yeager family has graves at Old North Cemetery with markers that read ‘Yager’,” she said. “Originally the name was Jager, but was changed when they came to America. In the early 1800s, Christian Yager changed the name to Yeager by adding an e. No one knows why.”

She also has a concern over the broken and fallen grave markers at Old North. She said there are so many that it is an eyesore.

“Old North is visible to anyone coming into town,” she said. “It sends a statement that nobody cares. I know we all do care.”

Carol cared enough to attend a Canfield City Council meeting on Aug. 24 to ask council to consider paying to have a professional come in and repair and straighten the stones. She said a man from southern Ohio will work a day or two

City Councilman Chuck Tieche said it is a matter that has been discussed for years in the city. He said he would like to get more information and prices, then take it to the parks, recreation and cemetery board for review. He said that board could make a recommendation to council.

While repair of the stones and the straightening are something the city would have to consider, the washing of the old headstones is something Carol wants to keep going. She said all of her labor is free, but the D-2 is expensive, which limits how many she can do.

“I don’t know how many I’ll get done at my age, but I’ll make a decent attempt,” she said.



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