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Preservation in Action: The Grave of Mamie White

The entire cemetery is in the midst of a massive repaving project, and recent work in the African American section left Mrs. Mamie White’s grave marker half buried and splattered with cement. The marker had been broken and replaced many years prior, so it lay flat upon a concrete pad as at the time no other reversible option for supporting it had yet been considered. This orientation may have, unfortunately, made it a little easier for the paving crews to miss.

We started by removing it from the ground, and cleaning it thoroughly with water and a firm-toothed brush. Next, I scraped off the cement splatter with a small trowel. It came free with surprising ease, likely because the stone was already quite dirty and the fresh cement didn’t bond well. Once the marker was clean, we could go about resetting it. In order to support the weight of the marker in an upright position we created a concrete socket. Using a bit of foam and some repurposed 2x4s, we created a form, poured our concrete, and left it to set.

After removing the frame from our new concrete base, we realized we had mis-measured. The marker did not fit! Fortunately, mistakes like that can usually be corrected. Using a handheld grinder, Ashley opened up the ends of the socket. With a little extra mortar, the problem was solved. The lime mortar we use is softer than typical cement, so if the original base of this marker were ever unearthed, we could reunite them.

Mamie White lived with her husband James in a little house  on Butler Street (now Jesse Hill Junior Drive). According to a 1940 census, she was a housewife and he was a porter at a filling station. Mamie died in 1959 at the age of 66, and was laid to rest next to her husband who proceeded her in death.

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