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Parishioners assist in restoration
of headstones in Holy Angels Cemetery

By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
(Email Katie)

ROSELLE – Preserving the Holy Angels Cemetery in Roselle has been an important project throughout this year, said Leo Sibenaller, Holy Angels parishioner.

 “Several hundred hours of work was donated to make the cemetery look good for today and for the future,” he said. “We are still an active parish and people come back who have relatives buried in the cemetery. We still have people being buried in Holy Angels Cemetery every year. I believe they know they will be taken care of.”

Need for restoration
In January 2011, the Holy Angels Church and Cemetery Foundation (HACCFI) Board agreed at the annual meeting that the cemetery work should be completed in 2011.  At that time, the thoughts were to restore Father John Geling's monument. 

“Father Geling was a priest who served the Roselle Holy Angels community from 1911 to 1925.  Before his death he constructed a chapel monument as his own headstone, from his own hand,” said Sibenaller. “We are guessing this was completed in the early to mid 1920s, prior to his departure to Le Mars and death, in which he was transported back and laid to rest in Roselle.”

He added that with time and the outside elements, the cement on the headstone had cracked, the top cement pitted and the cement letters on the front were falling off.  Inside, the statue of Jesus had become weathered, started to deteriorate and the colors faded from age and elements.

“The artwork on Jesus is phenomenal,” said Sibenaller. “We decided that this was something worth saving. It is a great testimony to Father Geling’s faith and what he believed in.”

After graveside services on Memorial Day, the glass was taken out of the monument and the statue removed.  For the next four to five weeks, the plaster of Paris statue was cleaned, repaired and hand painted.  The entire statue was then clear-coated for sunlight and color retention and protection. 

Once the statue was completed, it was returned to the inside of the church and placed by Mary's altar until the monument was completed.

 The monument's cement cross was taken off and many coats of cement were applied to build up and fill in the many pits and cracks in its structure. Once the final coat was on and smoothed out, the colors were added to replicate the existing Holy Angels colors - the red representing the brick and the "beeswax" color to represent the windows of the church. 

“It is our belief that when Father Geling constructed the chapel/monument, he mimicked the church so we wanted to bring that back out, at the same time, make it vibrant and stand out as the center piece of the cemetery because of its rich history and the effort this took to construct,” said Sibenaller.

 A one-inch solid piece of granite was installed on top of the monument along with a granite cross. The granite work was done by Irlbeck Precision Surfaces of Carroll.

The statue of Jesus was re-installed and a new frame with impact resistant glass was installed by Carroll Glass. Most of the monument work was performed by Russ Riesenberg, Joe Rupiper and Leo Sibenaller.  There were also other parishioners who helped throughout the project.

Other headstones
Along with the monument restoration, approximately 60 to 70 stones in the cemetery were straightened and leveled. 

“These are mid to late 1800 and early 1900 monuments in which at that time, many did not have headstone bases as they do today,” said Sibenaller. “If they did have a base many were of brick or rock, which overtime allows the stones to move and tilt.” 

In addition all of the steel grave markers were taken out and new lower units were installed, repaired (the part that goes in the ground), cleaned and refinished.  This was done by Tom Simons, Jerry Rupiper, Joe Rupiper and Leo Sibenaller.

Twenty-four new cement crosses were made by Joe Rupiper and Sibenaller and installed on the stones that were missing or had fallen apart over time. 

“Within the cemetery grounds, there were several old markers (wooden posts, rocks) that we decided to place new unknown grave markers on,” said Sibenaller. “These graves were researched by our records, as well as county and state records to verify that we could not identify and place a name on the site. With that, six unknown granite markers were installed and laid in finished cement pads for proper recognition and preservation of the grave site.”

This, along with re-gluing all loose headstones was handled by Boyce Monument of Carroll.  The granite markers were provided by Irlbeck Precision Surfaces of Carroll.

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