Dozens of broken headstones have been sitting idle for more than a year at St Mark’s Anglican Church in Picton.
A group of dedicated volunteers is about to change that.
Rotary Club of Picton members, St Mark’s senior minister Reverend Ben Boardman and residents have joined forces to restore the graveyard.
The Pioneer Cemetery was decimated in the storm in June last year and 56 headstones were snapped when flood water and debris inundated the graveyard.
The club donated $10,000 to the Pioneer Cemetery Restoration Committee last week to kick start the fundraising drive.
Project secretary Lyn Davey said it was time to restore the cemetery.
“For the past 14 months the focus of the restoration work was on fixing the church, which was looked after by insurance,” Ms Davey said.
“We left the cemetery sitting there quietly until the rest of the town – the shops, residents and church – was back on its feet.
“Now we are starting to look at the cemetery which has slipped through the cracks.
“There are very few descendants left so the community is working together to rebuild the cemetery.”
Reverend Boardman said the cemetery was “no mans land” because it is not covered by insurance. The graves are owned by the families of the deceased.
Club president Greg Cartwirght said Rotary wanted to make a donation to the committee because the cemetery was “obviously a great asset to the village”.
“The cemetery provides a great visitation point for tourists,” he said. “The devastation is obvious and Rotary is pleased to be able to contribute in this way.”
A working bee was initially set up immediately after the storm. Volunteers removed debris, dressed the graves with pebbles and placed plastic flowers around the graveyard to make the cemetery look loved again.
The committee were recently given advice from Wollondilly Council’s heritage consultant about what they can and can not do with the cemetery, which dates back to the 1850s.
“The consultant told us that we could not stand all the headstones up and we could not scrub the mould of the headstones because that was indicative of the age of the graveyard and was part of the heritage value,” Ms Davey said.
The committee will ask big business to financially support the restoration of the cemetery. They hope to raise $70,000.
“We need a long-reach crane to lift the heavy headstones back into place, which is expensive,” she said.
There is also an opportunity for smaller business to ‘adopt a grave’ to help the committee pay to restore the smaller graves.
Ms Davey said six families had come forward to restore graves at their own expense but there are now no more descendants so the committee has taken on the responsibility.