Olive Branch Cemetery Restoration

 

About Us

Olive Branch Cemetery Restoration is the grass-roots effort of Michael Shane Wamsley. After the unexpected passing of his wife, Shoshana "Soozi" Grossman, Michael was inspired and emboldened by the Jewish community's approach to respecting and honoring the memories of departed loved ones. During Michael and Shoshana's marriage, Jewish history and culture became an intricate part of their life together. Driven by an innate sensitivity for all Houses of Isreal, Shoshana's inspiration, and an untiring love for the community, Michael spearheaded an initial effort to clean up and restore the neglected, vandalized, and desecrated Bayside Cemetery in Queens, New York in 2003. He soon became aware of a large number of other cemeteries in New York, Utah, Africa, and Eastern Europe facing similar problems, and decided to establish a non-profit charitable organization. Olive Branch Cemetery Restoration was designated a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charity organization by the Internal Revenue Service in 2010.


Goals

Olive Branch Cemetery Restoration aims to clean and restore neglected cemeteries, as well as organize continued maintenance of said cemeteries. The Board of Directors identifies at-risk cemeteries whose restoration will stave off the degradation of irreplaceable historial landmarks and prevent community deterioration. By relying heavily on local volunteers, a communal sense of pride is developed and the value of interfaith collaboration is emphasized.

Olive Branch Cemetery Restoration seeks to expand access to cemetery records and provide multimedia-based methods of record retention and sharing. Genealogists will have increased access to unique historical documents. Family members and guests visiting cemeteries where Olive Branch has served will be able to tour and visit grave sites with greater ease. This work will not be done for the benefit of specific families, but for the public at large.


Personal Note from Michael Shane Wamsley


    Dear Friends,

    Thank you for your interest in our efforts to bring to light historial Jewish cemeteries and cemeteries of all faiths at risk of being lost to obscurity.

    Our organization, and those who support us, are committed to cemeteries receiving the proper care and attention they deserve. It is our goal to provide dignified, respectful restoration of the burial grounds of departed loved ones, which through the passage of time or unwarranted intrusion, are overgrown, vandalized, and desecrated. In doing so, we aim to restablish a setting that honors the departed and provides opportunity for contemplative thought.

    We strive to allow family members and genealogists access to well-organized historial record collections and details concerning the final resting places of departed loved ones. Work at Bayside Cemetery in Queens, New York has focused on documenting markers obscured by overgrowth and fallen trees. Gaps in original cemetery burial ledgers are being fleshed out by consulting New York City death records and mapping gates and lots. We hope that the burial information, photographs, and maps shared by Olive Branch Cemetery Restoration will provide family members and researchers with the tools to digitally "explore" cemeteries in New York, Utah, Africa, and Eastern Europe.

    Looking ahead, we wish to make the aformentioned services available to communities throughout the United States and the world, furthering the purposes of our organization, and impeccably following all apropriate laws and regulations of those countries in which we are invited to participate.

    As we pursue a common goal, I encourage friends, family, and volunteers to consider the concept of "chesed shel emet" - true kindness, done for and on behalf of those unable to repay deeds in kind; the final act of charity with no ulterior motive.

    Thank you for your time and participation,

    Michael Shane Wamsley
    Executive Director
    Olive Branch Cemetery Restoration