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St. Boniface “Old Walled Cemetery”

One of the iron crosses he is fixing.

Ron Schmuck is at it again and both St. Boniface Cemetery Board and the Maryhill Historical Society are very happy that he is.  Ron for several year now has been doing restoration work in our “Old Walled Cemetery”.

It all began in the mid 1970’s when Ron and his Dad, Fred Schmuck would visit the local cemeteries in Maryhill and Guelph visiting their ancestors graves.  They would remove the dead flowers and place winter wreaths on their monuments, but as time went on, they noticed some were in dire need of repairs.  So the following weekend they would return with cement, water and whatever was needed to do the job.  This was a tradition in their family, which is still carried on Europe and especially the areas of Alsace and Lorraine in France.  All Soul’s Day, November 1st is the day when people in Europe visit the cemeteries and look after the gravesites of their loved ones.  Even after Ron’s dad passed away in 1990 he has continued this tradition of cemetery work.

Ron’s business is a restorer of Mechanical Musical instruments which allowed him to travel the world and he was able to visit many very exceptional cemeteries throughout Europe where monuments are real works of art and national treasures.  On these visits he would see restoration being carried out on monuments now over 150 years old.  He soon realized the need to continue restoration of this nature should be happening in our very own cemeteries.  Now he is able to use original cements, lead caulking’s and metal pins to secure the various parts of a monument.

He was fortunate to sit in on several restoration schools in the USA, at Gettysburg and other civil war cemeteries and to also obtain a copy of the book put out by the Province of Ontario, called “Landscapes of Memories” compiled and edited by Tamara Anson-Cartwright. This guide book gives the approved ways to approach cemetery monument restoration. The golden rule is “Do No Harm”

Over the past years many monuments in the St. Boniface “Old Walled Cemetery” have been repaired.  Most requiring straightening or replacement of crucifix’s which had fallen to the ground or when iron pins rusted through. Over 40 markers had simply broken in the center, or at their base.  Often a new section had to be cast in cement. Using new materials available for this type of restoration, the monument with special wooden forms was used to hold the parts in place, when everything cured, it was then put back together like a sort of marble jigsaw puzzle.

Lately, with more time to spend for himself he has taken on more complicated types of monument restoration. The restoration of the over 90 iron crosses in the cemetery, properly referred to as the Lebensbaums or tree of life.  He is currently making metal frames to hold the marble name plaque that were on the iron monuments to identify the deceased. Through the years time has caused the iron pins which held the stone names in place to have rusted through and have fallen to the ground.

His next project will be the replacing of the iron scroll work on these crosses with many of them falling off and even lost.  Several of the most unique iron crosses are now being restored and he hopes to have them completed in the Fall of 2020.

You are invited to check out his work on the cemetery monuments on his website.

We are every so grateful to Ron and his work in our cemetery and the preservation of our ancestors monuments.

Ron Schmuck in front of the monuments where he made an angel that had disappeared

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