Helen Wildermuth's job is to save history.
Wildermuth has made a career out of restoring cemeteries and helping to preserve the history they contain.
"I love the look of cemeteries when they are restored," Wildermuth said. "It's very satisfying to see the change and to think that you gave something back to the community."
Wildermuth is the owner of Stonehugger Cemetery Restoration, an Indiana based company. Recently she visited Palatine and worked on two of the five cemeteries – Cady and Hillside – owned and operated by Palatine Township.
"It's amazing the kind of history that is there," said Terry Kelly, Palatine Township Assessor and Township Cemetery chairman. "Most of the founding fathers of Palatine are buried (in these cemeteries)."
Kelly said most of the work Wildermuth did was at Cady where she restored about 20 percent of the cemetery stones, adding that the results were remarkable. The township's plan is to have all the stones there restored over a period of five years.
With a passion for genealogy, Wildermuth became interested in restoring cemeteries several years ago. She often found the historic cemeteries she visited in a state of disrepair.
Eventually, her interest became a full-time job. She uses no chemicals to clean and restore the stones. Just soap, water and elbow grease: "You are going up against mother nature who has been breaking the stones down sometimes for 150 years."
Aside from cleaning off algae and other natural growth, Wildermuth attempts to repair broken stones and straighten others that have sunken awkwardly into the earth.
Kelly said the work by Wildermuth would not have been possible without the support of the Palatine Historical Society and the Clarinda Cady Questers group. Donations from the two groups accounted for about $3,000 of the $5,000 cost.
As part of their governing responsibilities, townships often taken on cemeteries that run into financial difficulty or become abandoned.
Cady was established in 1841 west of Ela Road and about a quarter of a mile south of Dundee Road. It was deeded to the township in 1856, according to the township's web site. Hillside dates back to 1861 and was deeded to the township in 1996. Located east of Smith Street and north of Colfax Street, Hillside contains more than 40 Civil War veterans, according to the township's web site.
Wolfrum Cemetery, located in Rolling Meadows, once was maintained by Cook County and was deeded to the township in 1994. The township also is responsible for Salem Cemetery near Plum Grove and Kirchoff roads and Sutherland Cemetery near Rand and Dundee.
Kelly said the cemetery maintenance budget for the year is $30,000 and covers work such as mowing, some tree work and weeding.