Crumbling graves get a fix-em-up in Virginia City

VIRGINIA CITY - Prime time is coming back to the Masonic Cemetery in Virginia City.

Prime time for the cemetery was 1867 to 1910, the years when the bulk of the 400 some graves were filled.

That was also the last time the Masonic Cemetery saw much upkeep until Chuck Malone came along. Malone, a Mason with the Pyramid Lodge No. 43 in Reno, started piecemeal restoration work five years ago on gravesites most afflicted by 100-plus years of rugged wear and tear.

"The animals were digging up bones from graves," Malone said. "Something hit me. I had to do something about it."

Malone's efforts have had the full support of the Comstock Historic District, which oversees the dozen or so separate cemeteries that make up the Silver Terrace Cemeteries.

"The Masonic Cemetery was fairly rigorously neglected for the last 60 or 70 years," said Bert Bedeau, the district's administrator. "There is active rehabilitation going on in the cemetery. This is great. The cemetery is one of the biggest attractions in the historic district. This enhances the experience for those who visit the cemetery."

Malone figures he and other Masons and volunteers have fixed up about 30 graves in the past five years. A half dozen or so were restored with concrete work this weekend.

"Yesterday in one day they did as much as I did in five years," Malone said Sunday at the cemetery.

Two truck loads of concrete poured the rebar-and-concrete foundation for a new wrought-iron entrance gate leading to the Silver Terrace Cemeteries. The seven-foot-high gate should go up next weekend and two Victorian lamp posts are scheduled to go up on either side of the gate the following weekend.

There was enough concrete left to pour slabs and/or frames for about a half dozen crumbling graves. Work didn't proceed as quickly in 1996 when Malone and a few others restored the graves of Laura Clark (1835-1917) and Frederick Clark (1851-1916).

"This is one that took 100 bags of cement and took 14 weeks to finish," Malone said.

Efforts moved to painting wrought-iron grave fences on Sunday.

"When we run out of cement, we paint," Malone said.

Victorian Gambling Hall owner Karl Guidici and American Ready-Mix in Carson City donated the concrete and Logan Lumber Co. of Sparks donated wood. Rebar came from Nevada Rebar, Jack Lindell supplied five gallons of paint and Tholl Fencing did the augur work for the gate. Don Drake, a Mason with the Golden 50 Lodge in Reno, coordinated these donations.

Malone's neighbors, Jim and Maureen Feeney came up Geiger Grade for paint day.

"I can't get Jim to paint at home," Maureen Feeney said before shifting to a more serious tone. "I was so touched that one person could spark all this interest."

Malone has formed the Comstock Masonic Association for the cemetery work. He plans to incorporate as a non-profit organization.

Malone and other Masons typically work at the Masonic Cemetery every weekend between April and October. Anybody want to volunteer or donate to the restorations may call Bert Bedeau at 847-0281.


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