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Nationally renowned conservationist to conduct free workshop at cemetery Tuesday

NATCHEZ — The man who helped restore the oldest gravestone in America will offer a free class on headstone preservation and repair at the Natchez City Cemetery on Tuesday.

Jonathan Appell, a nationally known conservator from Connecticut, will lead the class as part of his tour of 48 cemeteries in 48 states in 48 days.

Appell recently helped repair and restore the Knight tombstone at the Jamestown Historic Site in Virginia. The stone is thought to be the oldest tombstone in America.

“I have been in the field a long time,” Appell said. “I have been doing this for 20 years fulltime, restoring gravestones, monuments and historic masonry.”

To teach others how to use the same techniques he uses to restore gravestones, Appell said he decided to visit a cemetery in each of the 48 contiguous states and conduct workshops.

“I took it upon myself to do it this year, and I am doing it for free,” Appell said. “I am doing it to teach people.”

Appell’s trip is sponsored by Atlas Preservation, which sells many of the products Appell uses for conservation and restoration.

On Friday, Appell was driving through Arizona to conduct a workshop at the Middle Verde Cemetery north of Phoenix. On his way to Natchez, Appell is scheduled to visit cemeteries in New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana.

The one-day workshop from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday is free to anyone interested in learning about the conservation and preservation of cemetery headstones and monuments.

Natchez City Cemetery Association President Elise Rushing said the cemetery and the Historic Natchez Foundation are excited to host the event.

Appell said the Natchez City Cemetery was selected for the workshop after it was recommended to him for its historical significance and past restoration projects.

Appell said the first part of the workshop would include a short introduction. Most of the workshop will consist of hands-on demonstrations.

“Basically, it will be educational in the beginning — more historical and informational —  then it will be all about hands-on skills. I will be teaching people how to do the work.”

Appell said the workshop would also include demonstrations on how to do repairs.

“There will also be some opportunities for people to help out with that as well,” Apell said.

Rushing said those who are interested in the workshop need to show up in front of the shelter house at the cemetery at 9 a.m.

“You do not need to bring any tools,” Rushing said. “(Appell) will have all of the necessary tools with him.”

Rushing said participants will be required to wear masks during the workshop.