Bethlehem Press

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PRESS PHOTO BY ANDREW CASS Tombstone: Robert Mosko of Mosko Cemetery Monument Services called vandalism the main culprit of damages in St. Michael's but said not all the toppled over gravestones were caused by vandals. PRESS PHOTO BY ANDREW CASS Tombstone: Robert Mosko of Mosko Cemetery Monument Services called vandalism the main culprit of damages in St. Michael's but said not all the toppled over gravestones were caused by vandals.

Southside: Historical Society seeks cemetery assessment

Thursday, March 21, 2013 by ANDREW CASS Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

St. Michael's Cemetery is a somber sight, but not just for the usual reasons.

In January the Southside cemetery that sits at the intersection of East Fourth and State streets was vandalized, leaving two mausoleums and several tombstones covered in graffiti. Several more headstones lie toppled over.

The state of the St. Michael's inspired South Bethlehem Historical Society President Dana Grubb to bring in Robert Mosko of Mosko Cemetery Monument Services to give a presentation at the society's March 12 meeting.

Grubb brought Mosko in to explain his business with the possibility of assessing St. Michael's Cemetery in the future.

"An assessment would prioritize the measures it would take in order to make the cemetery safer, less prone to erosion and potentially in the long term to address the issue of monument restoration and graffiti removal," Grubb said.

Mosko discussed cemetery conservation, which he called the "art of repairing something without making it look that it was ever repaired in the first place." He said conservation included resetting of stones that have tilted, common repairs and cleaning of the stones. He added that most of the work can be done with volunteers.

After discussing conservation, Mosko then explained how his company assesses what work needs to be done in the cemetery.

"We go stone by stone, row by row and we assess the landscape," Mosko said. "We look at each individual stone, each individual gravesite and the land that it sits upon and we document and record what we physically see that's affecting that stone's permanent condition."

Mosko said that assessing the cemetery takes about six to eight hours to finish. The company then takes its notes and categorizes what kinds of fixes are needed. He said vandalism and erosion are likely the main culprits at St. Michael's and added that his company would not even consider restoring the cemetery until the vandalism issue is addressed.

"I would not step foot into that cemetery until security measures are taken to stop the vandalism from happening," Mosko said. "There's no point in going in and fixing anything until that site is secure."

The assessment, Mosko said, usually costs between $6,000 and $7,000.

After the presentation, the historical society unanimously voted to solicit a proposal of assessment from Mosko Cemetery Monument Services.

Grubb said no work will be done in the cemetery without the approval of Holy Infancy Church, but added that the church has endorsed the historical society's plan so far.

"Holy Infancy has no money and they're very interested in having something accomplished at the cemetery that would make it safer, preserve it and potentially restore it," Grubb said.

The solicitation will ask Mosko for the cost of the assessment and a detailed explanation of what the assessment entails.