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Volunteers needed to clean the historical headstones of Maple Ridge cemeteries

Three registration times available
Maple Ridge Cemetery. (The News/files)

Headstones in cemeteries can date back hundreds of years, but as time marches on, have no one to care of them.

Moss takes over, in addition to deterioration from the sun and rain.

For the sixth year, Maple Ridge Museum is organizing a clean-up of these historic headstones called the Headstone Preservation Project, formerly known as The Cemetery Clean Up.

“It’s a great annual event. It connects people to at least one piece of the history of the cemetery,” said museum curator Shea Henry, who is helping to organize three groups to clean the headstones at Maple Ridge Cemetery and Whonnock Cemetery.

At Maple Ridge Cemetery, established in 1878, the volunteer groups will be focused on cemetery one, that alone has several hundred tombstones in it, said Henry. The earliest headstone is dated 1883.

The old cemetery, noted Henry, is the cemetery of the older families and the older settlers, whose families have moved on or the headstones been there for so long that they need some tender loving care. Otherwise they would deteriorate, Henry said.

“We can’t do much but give them a little scrub for all those people who don’t currently have family here to do it,” she said.

In particular, there is a section of Cemetery One, that contains the resting spots of Japanese settlers, before internment during the Second World War, when the Japanese Canadians, many of whom were Canadian citizens by birth, were forced from their homes and detained under the War Measures Act, under the guise of national security. Most of those families never returned to the area, said Henry.

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This year Henry was able to expand the amount of volunteers within each group due to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Last year she was only allowed 10, this year she can have up to 25 people.

Henry is hoping volunteers can bring their own tools for the work.

To clean the headstones all is needed is a bucket of water, a brush, and a bit of muscle.

RELATED: Removal of graveside items by B.C. cemetery staff deemed ‘disrespectful’

There are three sessions: from 5-8 p.m. on Thursday, July 15, at Maple Ridge Cemetery; from 9-12 p.m. on Saturday, July 17, also at Maple Ridge Cemetery; and from 9-12 p.m. on Saturday, July 24, at Whonnock Cemetery.

Henry needs around 10 more volunteers at each session.

To reserve a spot go to and search Headstone Preservation Project.

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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