When Max and Jodi Fenton have some free time, it’s not unusual for the Greeley couple to spend it in an area cemetery. The couple travel to cemeteries in a multi-county area repairing old gravestones that have fallen (sometimes literally) on hard times.
Max Fenton, whose family owned Manchester Monument Works when he was growing up, has been around cemeteries all his life.
“I’ve worked on gravestones since the late ‘80s or early ‘90s when my parents owned the monument shop,” he explained.
The couple have been to cemeteries in Greeley, Edgewood and Strawberry Point, as well as several country cemeteries. At the cemeteries, they have little trouble finding gravestones that need repair.
“I don’t think we’ve hit a cemetery yet that had less than 15 stones that needed repairing,” Max Fenton said.
The couple work mostly on marble stones, digging them out of the dirt if need be, cleaning them off and using epoxy to put broken pieces back together.
“We work mainly on marble stones,” Max Fenton said. “Originally, we were just repairing veterans’ stones from WWI and WWII, sometimes the Civil War. Then after we got done with those we just moved onto other stones.”
According to Max Fenton, a $50 can of epoxy can repair 15-20 smaller stones. He said people have offered to help defray the costs of repairs. “I tell them to donate directly to the cemetery and not to me.”
The couple have been married 10 years. Jodi Fenton said they worked on gravestones when they were dating. “We both love doing this,” she said. “We spend a lot of weekends in cemeteries.”
“I couldn’t even begin to count how many we’ve fixed in the years we’ve been together,” Max Fenton added.
As to why the couple does it?
“If we don’t do it, there’s a good chance it won’t get done,” Max Fenton said. “The families are gone, generations have passed, people moved away and cemeteries don’t have much money.”
The couple have discovered some interesting history restoring the stones. “At the Ross Cemetery (north of Strawberry Point), we came across stones belonging to a father and a son who were both killed in the Civil War three months apart,” Max Fenton said.
He said he likes to work on stones that need a lot of attention. “The bigger the mess, the better I like it. I like finding something in eight or nine pieces that I can put back together and stand back up again.”
Max Fenton said what the couple is doing is simply helping out. “It’s service to our surrounding communities.”
Jodi Fenton added, “I just think we’re doing something good.”