Desert Wells DAR

Daughters of the American Revolution members gathered Saturday to clean headstones at the Phoenix Pioneer and Military Memorial cemetery.

QUEEN CREEK — A historic cemetery in Phoenix received some extra love recently when several area Daughters of the American Revolution members teamed up with other volunteers to spend some time cleaning headstones.

Prior to the cleanup, volunteers spent time learning proper headstone care, cleaning and restoration. Then, on Saturday they visited the Phoenix Pioneer and Military Memorial cemetery to clean and restore headstones.

Some of Arizona’s earliest pioneers and historic figures are buried at the cemetery.

Nine members of the Desert Wells (Queen Creek) DAR chapter joined 36 other volunteers to restore the historic headstones in downtown Phoenix.

“DAR members of the Cactus Wren and George P. Hunt chapters, and other local volunteers worked side by side,” said DAR Desert Wells member Midge Garrison.

Desert Wells daughters who volunteered were:

  • Tracy Paulsen, chapter regent
  • Kathy Burgheimer, chapter vice-regent
  • Pat Nowak, chapter librarian
  • Debbie Johnson, chapter historian
  • Diane Wyatt, chapter corresponding secretary
  • Becky Nowak
  • Shirley Waage
  • Kathy Sramek
  • Garrison

“Cemetery headstones are valuable to historians to document people’s lives,” Garrison said. “Headstones ensure that people will be remembered long after paper or electronic records become obsolete or are destroyed.”

Exposure to the elements and other factors cause tombstones, stone headstones, bronze memorial grave markers, memorial benches and other types of monuments to deteriorate over time, she said.

“There are many causes for the deterioration, and the effects of sunlight, rain and snow and fluctuating temperatures eventually lead to the breakdown of materials,” Garrison said.

Following the restoration guidelines they learned, the volunteers gently cleaned the headstones using proper techniques.

“The important elements for cleaning a headstone are water and a two-gallon garden sprayer as well as sponges or soft bristle brushes and elbow grease,” Garrison said. “Household soap, dishwashing liquid, detergent, wax and other cleaning products are never used when cleaning a headstone, grave marker or monument, regardless of how safe or gentle it claims to be on various surfaces.”

The headstones were checked for stability then washed with water.

“A soft brush is used to clean the surface, and it is rinsed again. A gentle biological solution can be applied with a brush then rinsed off with water,” Garrison said.

The Memorial Park is at 1317 W. Jefferson Street in Phoenix. It was established in 1938 by the Pioneer Cemetery Association to preserve the seven historic cemeteries near the Arizona State Capitol Complex.

More information about the cemeteries is online at


Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at

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