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Cemetery Memorial Marker Cleaning Days

This page was last reviewed on May 30, 2019.

Please join us at the first Cumberland Cemetery memorial marker preservation and cleaning day!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019 & Wednesday, June 5, 2019

9 am to noon both days

Our focus will be cleaning of memorial markers (not the entire grave) to help preserve the markers.

Cumberland Cemetery is located on Memorial Way (previously Minto Road) beside Cumberland Sand and Gravel just off the Comox Valley Parkway. Future events may take place at the Chinese Cemetery and Japanese Cemetery (please email Rachel at to express your interest in future events).

The first step is to remove plant growth and grass away from the headstones (to leave a path for water to drain off the marker). The second step is to use a cleaning solution to remove moss and lichen from the headstone. We will be using a cleaning solution specifically made for cleaning granite. The solution is an easy to use liquid that is biodegradable, contains no acids, salts, or chlorine, is pH neutral, and is safe to use around plantings.

Volunteers are asked to bring:

  • Drinking water (water onsite is not potable)
  • Hat and sunscreen
  • Work gloves, and/or rubber gloves when using water
  • Padded mat for kneeling
  • If you have them, your own gardening tools for cutting sod and plant growth around the markers – you might want to mark with your initials so you don’t loose them.

The Village will provide a limited supply of:

  • Buckets, brushes, plastic and wooden spatulas, bamboo sticks for scraping off lichen and moss
  • Non-ionic solution cleanser (safe for use on granite and marble) in spray bottles
  • Clippers, grass clippers, and loppers for cutting plant growth around markers (we will not be doing a large amount of cutting – just around markers)
  • Rags and towels
  • Non-potable water via water truck
  • Wheelbarrows and containers to collect and dispose of sod and plant growth and garbage

Marker Care and Lettering

Please remember to take great care to gently clean memorial markers and do not use any product that could damage a marker. Please only use wood, bamboo, or plastic utensils and brushes. It is recommended to use a non-ionic cleanser specifically made to clean granite. Never use bleach or harsh cleaner that contributes to formation of soluble salts. Never use a power washer. Sandstone markers should only be cleaned by a professional stone conservator.

You may refresh the lettering of your family marker only please. The recommended paint for this purpose is a lithco base paint specifically made for stone monuments which will stand up to weathering and ultraviolet light. Monument companies may clean markers and refresh lettering for your family for a fee.

Excerpt from the heritage statement of significance (2018):

Established in 1895, the Cumberland Cemetery is considered to be an essential and unique feature of Cumberland, valued as the resting place for generations of Cumberland’s citizens. It represents a tangible link between those living and those buried, and to the community’s past through its natural landscape features, physical layout, and built elements such as grave markers and monuments. Today, it retains a connection to early families that still remain in Cumberland and the surrounding area.

Constructed on a portion of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway land grant owned by Robert Dunsmuir’s Canadian Collieries Dunsmuir Ltd., the cemetery is important for being representative of the role that the coal mining company played in the area. Its connection and importance to the mining community is found in its original design and layout of family burial grounds and grave sites by Union colliery surveyor Frank Smith. In addition to citizens of Cumberland, the cemetery became the final resting place for many Union Bay, Bevan and #8 Mine townsite residents, communities established by, and associated with, the colliery.

The original layout of the cemetery reflects the spiritual, social and political norms of the time, as well as the diversity of Cumberland’s population. Historically, two separate cemeteries with different entrances for Catholics and Protestants existed. The two were combined in 1983 and now use a common entranceway. Japanese Canadians and Chinese Canadians had separate cemeteries altogether.

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