Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of The Friends 2021 Vol. 1 - Page 15

sweet auburn | 2021 volume i

Persevering Through the Pandemic with Preservation

Top : Emily removing paint from the ceiling in the Gardner tomb .
Bottom : Jonah rough fitting tower mezzanine door mock-up .
Article & Photos By : Emily Alexander Preservation Craftsperson
Greg Ghazil Preservation Supervisor
Jonah Spector Preservation Craftsperson hile the world around us came to screeching halt in late March and early April of 2020 , Mount Auburn ’ s task remained unchanged .


With the onset of Covid-19 , the preservation department became the “ fill the gap ” department . Suddenly preservation projects took a back seat as all hands were enlisted to ensure the continued safe and essential duties of an active cemetery during a pandemic . We ran two interment teams comprised of interment , horticulture , and preservation staff to bury people safely . We did that for the duration of the first surge . When finally Massachusetts “ flattened the curve ” and things got back to normal … kinda , we worked as one-person crews only taking on as much as one person could safely handle .
Large preservation projects were put off in favor many smaller ones . We mainly focused on foundation repairs with an emphasis on monuments in peril on hillsides . These were the monuments deemed most susceptible to falling over . As with anything built on a slope there were challenges . But as the pandemic raged all around , we found a renewed sense of purpose and ultimate satisfaction as these much-needed repairs were completed .
As in any year , colder temperatures mark a shift in focus for the preservation department . Our projects become ones that can be completed inside . Projects include repairs of the Gardner Tomb ceiling , new baseboards for Bigelow Chapel , and working on a replica arched bi-fold door for Washington Tower ( researching , drafting , and building a working mock-up of the door ).
With regular hours on the Cemetery grounds , it ’ s been a fragile bubble of normalcy . The only visual differences to indicate things are anything but are the face masks and that distance we keep between us .

Wilfredo “ Willie ” Robles Jr .

Cemetery staff were shocked and saddened at the sudden death of friend and co-worker Wilfredo “ Willie ” Robles Jr . on Friday , March 5th . Willie brought vibrancy and joy to the preservation department every day . His positivity was infectious , he would boost your mood no matter how bad the day . Whether it was resetting monuments for preservation , custodial work , or helping with interments , he was willing to jump in and help wherever needed . All the while making everyone laugh and flashing his patented Willie smile . There is a hole now , a void of resolute kindness . There is a heavy quiet where there should be laughter . He was a great co-worker but above all and more importantly , he was our friend . — Emily and Jonah