By Danielle Woodruffe
A beautiful, rare, marble statue sat on the gravesite of Parker Health Group Founder’s Henrietta and Francis Parker for more than a century – yet hardly anyone would have been able to spot it.
The statue and gravesite were hidden from plain until some Parker descendants set out to find it.
“We were relieved to find it and just in a good deal of heartbreak and distress that the monument’s on the ground, the stones were covered in ivy and brush, we had to claw them apart to see the writing. The angel of hope was green and moldy,” said Parker descendant, Marjorie White.
Marjorie White and Patricia Schulz made the discovery while trying to learn more about their family history. After finding it, they knew something needed to be done. Working alongside Parker Health Group and Elmwood Cemetery – the sisters enlisted their cousin Cliff who rallied the family troops to bring some TLC to the site.
“Francis and Henrietta had three daughters and I was able to get every branch to participate in this,” said Parker descendant, Cliff van Voorhees.
Because of its unique construction, a major restoration project took place to bring the statue back to life. Conservationists from Philadelphia carefully cleaned the monument, recurved missing fingers, filled voids and cracks in the marble and hand-cut lost lead lettering.
“This was definitely a treat for us to work on because it’s not often we get to work on beautiful statuary quality marble in a cemetery setting.,” said Marco Federico, Conservation Materials. “and to have it come out to the extent that everything looked good with the finished project.”
“The tree is gone, the lettering is back and it’s now shining,” said van Voorhees.
A statue that looks as good as new now adorns Elmwood Cemetery. All involved recently held a rededication ceremony to mark the occasion.
“We are proud to be able to participate with the family. We are very proud of being able to share Parker’s history with the family,” said Parker President & CEO, Roberto Muñiz. “It’s just a great opportunity to spend some time with them and hear about their own stories.”
“This is an organization that was founded by a vision of a family that wanted to give back and this was 100 years ago they wanted to give back and they’re giving back to this day,” said Elmwood Cemetery President, Eleanor Molloy.
Many of the Parker family members traveled from out of state to be here. They visited the site to learn more about their ancestors and the legacy they left behind in starting Parker Home.
“It’s a shining testimonial to a couple that did some wonderful things including one of the most important parts of their legacy – was the formation of the Parker home,” remarked van Voorhees. “Which has gone from 16 bed to 1000 people being served? I mean holy smokes that’s amazing. They would be so proud of that and I’m sure all my cousins are – of the progress that the Parker home has made. We are thrilled by this and very grateful to the Parker Health Group for doing this.
“Seeing it now – it’s just staggeringly beautiful and an incredible amount of work went into it,” said White.
“It really has made us think anew about our forebearers and certainly it has brought the cousins closer together and we’re all very grateful for our heritage,” added Shultz.
Parker dedicated a marble bench at the site next to the statue. The statue is now plain to see and it’s the hope she will serve as a source of inspiration for all who visit.