- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - They lived long ago in Rapid City, and now their memories are being revived along with their massive gravestones.

Thanks to $37,500 in anonymous private donations, 36 crooked headstones - most of which date back to the early 1900s - have been realigned in the city-owned Mountain View and Mount Calvary cemeteries on the southwest side of town, city spokesman Darrell Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker said straightening the 36 gravestones cost about $8,000, leaving some $29,500 in reserve to resolve problems at other yet-to-be-identified tombstones at the cemeteries.

Rapid City’s Rausch Monument is straightening the stones, a project spearheaded by Rapid City Council President Jerry Wright after the rest of the 10-member council in September 2014 rejected spending on the project.

Wright had pushed to correct the sunken tombstones before they fell over, crumbled or potentially even crushed a passerby. He had originally sought $25,000, with more than $37,000 ultimately being secured to fix the problem.

“It’s a wonderful thing. It’s just a win-win. It’s great,” Wright told the Rapid City Journal (http://bit.ly/1FNfQFk ). “I think it’s just a common sense thing … I think the city could have done more.”

On a recent Tuesday, David Gonzalez, Erick Eisenbraun and Tanner Big Eagle of Rausch Monument were at Mountain View Cemetery, straightening the crooked memorials.

The three-man crew said 20 were realigned the previous Monday.

They spoke as they worked to straighten the crooked tombstone of Henry Eastman, who died in 1914, and Rachel E. Eastman, who died in 1928.

“What happens, they’re so old, they just rot in time,” Eisenbraun said of the concrete foundations lying beneath each headstone. He added that heavy rains over the years have also helped sink the stones.

They expected to wrap up their work on Tuesday.

The crew straightened each headstone by digging up the ground on the crooked side of each memorial; leveling them with a small jack; shoring up the massive grave markers; and tucking in quick-set concrete to keep the monuments level.

Aside from the realignment efforts, the two cemeteries will get more love - eventually.

In 2018, the city Parks and Recreation Department, which maintains the cemeteries, plans to spend about $342,000 to complete other improvements at the cemeteries. The bulk of the funding will go toward replacing the crumbling roads at both sites.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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