Greenwood Heights

Green-Wood volunteers restore monument for 117-year-old mother of 22

August 13, 2015 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Students from Preservationist Volunteers helped restore a monument to a woman who lived to be 117 years old and had 22 children. From left: Arturo Juarez, Gauthier “Gerry” Lepers, Jerry de Labite, Antonin Dubois, Julien Bordas, Juliette Kaminski, Auriane Riehl and Nicholas Cruz. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese

A group of young volunteers visited Green-Wood Cemetery on Wednesday to restore and archive a monument to a 117-year-old mother of 22 children who died in 1854.

Sarah W. Kairns was born in 1737 and lived until 1854 when she died at the age of 117 years, three months and sixteen days. According to the inscription on the tombstone, she “gave birth to twenty-two children and retained her sprightliness to the last.” It marks the final resting place for Kairns and her four sisters, all of whom lived to be over 100-years-old.

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“In 1866, Sarah Kairns was a part of one of the first tours that Green-Wood’s historian created,” said Chelsea Dowell, Green-Wood’s manager of programs and membership. “She was 117 years old when she died, so she’s one of Green-Wood’s oldest burials.”

Among the preservationists were two students from Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design and six students from France on an exchange program sponsored by Preservation Volunteers. The eight students treated the white marble monument with a hydroxylating conversion treatment to harden and clean the stone and performed rubbings on both sides of the monument to archive it.

The volunteers from France are part of a program that started in 2001 by preservationists Evelyn and Everett Ortner, and the program is continued today under current Chairperson Dexter Guerrieri.

“We’ve been doing [the volunteer program] for so many years now,” said Frank Morelli, manager of restoration at Green-Wood. “Every year at this time they come in and we try to give them a taste of all the restoration preservation. They learn how to reset stones, preserve the stones and they can learn the different techniques.”

Some of the other preservation projects include the cleaning and waxing of the giant bronze bear that sits atop the memorial to 19th century American artist William Holbrook Beard and the repair, refurbishing and cleaning of the monument and family plot of Charles Tinker, one of four men who worked in the telegraph office of the War Department during the Civil War.


“It really is encouraging to see these young volunteers dedicated to preservation, and it is fitting that today, some of our youngest helpers are paying tribute to the oldest soul buried here,” said Richard J. Moylan, president of Green-Wood.

“The wonderful partnership we have with Preservation Volunteers has helped us ensure that the beauty of Green-Wood’s headstones, monuments and sculptures — and the integrity of our rich history — are being painstakingly preserved,” Moylan said.

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