Clarence Hollowell has cleaned over 600 tombstones till date at a cemetery that no one visits. He considers it as his personal project and a way to give back to the community.
Clarence Hollowell, a mailman working for the Jacksonville Beach Post Office does something extraordinary on his day off. After delivering mails all week, he heads towards neglected cemeteries on Sundays. No, he's not there to put flowers on the graves of loved ones, but instead cleans the headstones of every veteran buried in the cemetery which has no visitors reports The Florida Times-Union. He has cleaned over 600 tombstones to date while spending two to three weeks on each of them.
Coming from a long line of military veterans and being an ex-army man himself, Hollowell recently moved to the Five Points area of Jacksonville in December for a rather sweet reason. He did so to be with his fiancee. Before moving to Jacksonville, he used to reside in North Carolina as a mailman, and still took time out to clean headstones there as well.
He claims to have cleaned over three dozen graves situated in the Jacksonville Cemetery with the only hope the if "one person comes over and looks, I’m happy." Not everyone thinks about giving back to the community this way, and this is his way of doing so. He said, "Everybody’s gotta have a project. And I think if you can help the community, even better." He recalls cleaning a bunch of tombstones which he believes belongs to members of the US Colored Troops, the branch from the early 1800s comprising of minority groups. "A veteran is a veteran," he said.
The 60-year-old used to serve in the Army, and this Memorial Day, he chose to visit Old City Cemetery in Springfield, Florida just so he could clean the headstone of captain S.L. Tibbitts, and 1st Lieutenant Joseph H. Huau. Not even the sweltering heat in the Old City could stop him from going out there with his equipment to honor their memory. According to the newspaper, he carries some regular equipment and cleaning agents like "plastic scraper to remove growth, a soft bristled brush, a toothbrush for small areas, water and a special cleaning solution he orders online." By choosing the best products for the work, he ensures that every headstone is left looking squeaky clean.
He begins the process from one corner using the cleaning solution which costs him $40 for every gallon. Using a soft brush, he gets into each corner and cleans it perfectly. He explains how he begins by scraping off any unnecessary outgrowth and washes it away by pouring water over it. After the exterior is washed, he focuses on the nooks and crannies and goes over them with a soft bristled brush. He finishes the process by spraying the liquid solution approved for use at national cemeteries. This effectively removes all yellowness present due to bacterial growth leaving it a stony grey as it's supposed to be.
He said, "I’ll work on this for about an hour. Back and forth. It’s just like your hair. You rinse and repeat." Once he's done with his meticulous process, he writes the name mentioned on the tombstone and looks their story up on the internet according to the newspaper. Pointing at the headstone of James H. Savelle, which he just cleaned, he told the Florida Times-Union, "I go to Ancestry.com and find out about them." He further explains how Savelle died in Fort Bliss, Texas, in 1918 after succumbing to influenza. "Every town has a story," he said. "These guys probably never left their hometowns and, let’s face it, had the greatest adventure of their whole lives."
Elaborating further, he said, "They were 18, 20-year-old boys that didn’t come home." He holds the memories of the deceased in high regard and is grateful for the sacrifice they made for their people. He cannot help but honor what's left of their memory. "My definition of Memorial Day is they gave their tomorrows so I could have mine today," he said. Being a part of a military family has helped him to understand the importance of doing what he does.
Twitterverse couldn't help but thank Hollowell for his selfless actions. Here's what they had to say:
God bless you. Your hard work is appreciated— Verna L Lucas (@VernaLLucas1) May 28, 2019
I have a friend who does this too. I love it. There are many ways veterans can be honored, and this is one of them. Thank you @enthused for RTing this.— KellyAnn Carpentier (@CarpentierKA) May 28, 2019
Thank you Clarence!— Judy Johnson (@Jj95Judy) May 27, 2019
Thank You, Clarence Hollowell.— Mynxe L. Silles (@MynxeLSilles) May 27, 2019
Thank You, Veterans.
It’s not “happy” Memorial Day. Thankful for people like Clarence.— Christiana Lilly (@christianalilly) May 26, 2019