LIGONIER — The stains of time and tree sap have long dulled the surfaces of the Hebrew-engraved gravestones of Ligonier’s Jewish pioneers in the northeast corner of Oak Park Cemetery. Tree sap, algae and mold left their marks on the two white marble mausoleums, too.
The Oak Park Cemetery board decided in 2020 to spruce up the Ahavath Sholom section, established in 1865, with a thorough cleaning. Several dead trees were also removed.
The Jewish cemetery’s name means “Peace Loving.” The gravestones carry dates from the 1860s through the 1930s, with names in English on one side and verses in Hebrew on the other side.
Cemetery board president Eldon Smith said the board hired professional power washer Kevin Charles of Kendallville to use a multi-step process to clean the gravestones and the mausoleums.
Charles has his power washer mounted on a truck. He used a concentrated chemical mixture first, then power washed everything. He then applied another chemical to leave on the markers and mausoleums all winter.
Everything received a second power washing this spring, leaving the mausoleums gleaming a radiant white. The grave markers sparkle in the sunshine like giant chess pieces.
Patty Becker of Fashion Farm donates plants and her time to fill the urns that decorate the front of the mausoleums. The larger Straus mausoleum has four urns, and the smaller Meyer-Jacobs mausoleum has two.
On May 28, Becker was hurrying to finish her plantings before the rain came.
“I try to do it a little different each year,” she said.
Becker chose red geraniums, white euphoria, and dangling green vinca vines for this year.
“It flows over the urn,” she said. “It brings out the cleaning of the mausoleums.”