Florida Mailman, 60, Spends His Days Off Cleaning Veterans' Headstones at Rundown Cemeteries
Every Sunday when Clarence Hollowell has a day off from delivering mail for the Jacksonville Beach Post Office, he heads to one unexpected place: a rundown cemetery.
He’s not there to put flowers on a loved one’s grave, but instead spends his time cleaning tombstones for veterans’ who have no visitors, according to The Florida Times-Union.
And to date, he’s cleaned over 600 tombstones with each one taking about two or three weeks.
Over Memorial Day, the 60-year-old who served in the Army himself, headed to Old City Cemetery in Springfield, Florida, and spent his time cleaning a headstone for captain S.L. Tibbitts, and 1st Lieutenant Joseph H. Huau.
According to the newspaper, Hollowell only brings a “plastic scraper to remove growth, a soft bristled brush, a toothbrush for small areas, water and a special cleaning solution he orders online.”
He starts one corner using the cleaning solution, which costs about $40 a gallon and works with the soft brush.
After he cleans them, he writes their name down and then looks into their story, according to the newspaper.
“I go to Ancestry.com and find out about them,” he told the Florida Times-Union, pointing to the headstone of James H. Savelle, who died in Fort Bliss, Texas, in 1918 from influenza.
“They were 18, 20-year-old boys that didn’t come home,” he told the newspaper. “My definition of Memorial Day is they gave their tomorrows so I could have mine today.”
Hollowell, who comes from a family of military veterans, estimates that he’s cleaned about three dozen graves at the Jacksonville cemetery and adds that if “one person comes over and looks, I’m happy.”
“Everybody’s gotta have a project,” he said. “And I think if you can help the community, even better.”