A generous group of bricklayers restore a 200-year-old cemetery wall in Mantua for free

A local bricklayers union donated their time and resources to restore a historic landmark for the Mantua Township Historical Commission.

Pictured in front of the newly restored wall are bricklayers Ren Engelhardt, Robert Gist, Mario Cerrito, Cody Abrams, Bob Alesandro, Anthony Pierru and Randall Dobbs. (Andrew Turco)

It is never too late to do a good deed. 

On the morning of Nov. 20, Local 5 International Union of Bricklayers proved it. 

The group donated their time and resources to restore a 200-year-old cemetery in Mantua. 

“It comes back 10 fold by doing things like this,” said Mario Cerrito, 2nd vice president of Local 5 International Union of Bricklayers. “People in the community respect it.”

After a few months of communication with the Mantua Township Historical Commission from Director of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Rich Tolson, along with Apprentice Coordinator Bob Alesandro and Cerrito, the much-needed repair of the over 200-year-old wall that surrounds Driver Cemetery in the Barnsboro section of Mantua Township was finally completed.

Mario and his team of apprentices donated their time and resources to fix what is the resting place of one of the original families who settled in Barnsboro. 

“When I got a phone call and came out here to look at it, I figured we’ll get the apprentices out and get them involved to try to restore some of the work that’s been here for years,” Cerrito said.

Apprentices in the local Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Union work on the 200-year-old wall that surrounds Driver Cemetery in the Barnsboro section of Mantua Township on Wednesday, Nov. 20. (Andrew Turco)

It was about five years ago when members of the commission began to see the front-end of the cemetery wall, which had hardly been touched since the late 1700s, give way to fallen pieces and lose its upright structure. Upkeep from members began to become difficult, both physically and emotionally, as they tried to preserve what was a lesser-known landmark once hidden by overgrown trees and brush. 

“As early as five years ago, you could not see any of this wall from the outside,” said historical commission member Bill Crew. “This has been years in the making trying to get this fixed.”

The union crew skillfully filled and layered pieces of stone to level out the decaying wall, taking away a portion that was beyond repair and eventually shortening the original height. 

With their involvement in the community, the cemetery wall will stand for at least another 100 years, according to Jeffrey Gellenthin, chairman of the historical commission. 

The cemetery holds about 18 standing gravestones, several of which are still legible, according to Gellenthin. 

During one of the many restoration processes, commission members have found gravestones buried below the ground. It’s a future goal of the group to find where and to whom the stone belongs.   

“That’s a huge thing for us,” Gellenthin said, regarding restoration. “Rome wasn’t built in a day, so this is stuff that we do when we find the time.” 

Onlookers will now be able to catch a glimpse of the gravestones, along with the rest of the cemetery, from the dirt road on 25 Loring Lane, Sewell.