New Orleans man preserving the past by restoring Biloxi grave site

New Orleans man preserving the past by restoring Biloxi grave site

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Chances are if you live here in South Mississippi you’ve heard the name Cuevas. It’s a name that goes back centuries in this area. Effort is now underway to make sure the memory of one of the first Cuevases on the Coast lives on.

Restoring grave sites is a passion for Nick Black. He performs meticulous work with attention to every detail in a setting that couldn’t get much more peaceful.

“There’s something very peaceful about working in cemeteries,” Black said. “You’re typically by yourself, and it’s typically very quiet.”

Black grew up in New Orleans and was a regular visitor to the city’s historic cemeteries, and along the way picked up the skill of bringing graves back to their original appearance. He now works for NOLA Cemetery Renewal.

“I just learned from teaching myself and by making mistakes,” Black said.

For the next few weeks, Black is using his talents in the Old Biloxi Cemetery.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to work out here,” he said.

The tomb Black is restoring is the final resting place of Juan Cuevas and his wife. The pair died in the mid 1800s, but more than a thousand of their descendants live on today. Many of them worked to receive a grant for the tomb restoration.

It’s a project Black embraces to help keep the memory of Cuevas alive since he considers him a legendary figure from the War of 1812.

“The legend goes he helped fend off the British from attacking New Orleans,” Black said.

Cuevas lived on Cat Island and is believed to have possibly fired the first shots on the British as they made their way to New Orleans, but time and hurricanes have taken their toll on Cuevas’ tomb.

“I guess where the roof structure would be and on up was pretty much dismantled,” Black explained.

If Black didn’t do the work, he feels many treasures of the past would be lost for future generations to see.

“Families nowadays don’t come year after year to repair cracks or to even paint them,” he said.

To ensure the maximum longevity, Black said he uses modern materials in his restorations. He expects it to take about three weeks to finish restoring the Cuevas tomb.

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