Days off from work are a sacred thing. They are marked by longer mornings in bed, hanging out with friends, catching up on errands and more. But for one mailman in Florida, his day off is not spent doing something for himself, but instead doing something for others.
Sixty-year-old Clarence Hollowell spends his Sundays at cemeteries, cleaning off veterans’ gravestones that have become worn down and dirty.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Hollowell visited the Old City Cemetery in Springfield, Florida, where he cleaned the headstones of Capt. S. L. Tibbitts and 1st Lt. Joseph H. Huau.
According to the Florida Times-Union, when he finishes cleaning the headstones, he is not quite done. He keeps a log of each headstone he has cleaned and researches each one to find out more about the person and their story in the military.
Part of Hollowell’s respect for veterans comes from the fact that he grew up in a military family, and served in the U.S. Army himself.
“I go to Ancestry.com and find out about them,” he told the Florida Times-Union. He pointed to a headstone a few feet away, belonging to James H. Savelle, who died of influenza in 1918, according to Hollowell’s research.
Hollowell, who recently moved to Florida, used to live in North Carolina, where he would deliver mail and clean headstones in his free time as well.
“Everybody’s gotta have a project,” Hollowell said. “And I think if you can help the community, even better.”
Cleaning headstones is not an easy process, and possibly why they get so dirty and rugged looking. According to Hollowell, each headstone takes about two or three weeks to clean. He scrapes off any growth on the exteriors, pours water over the entirety, then scrubs it with a bristled brush.
Lastly, he sprays it with D/2 Biological Solution, the only solution approved for use at national cemeteries, which costs Hollowell around $40 a gallon.
The cost doesn’t bother Hollowell, nor does the amount of time that has to be dedicated in cleaning the headstones. Instead, he feel grateful for each and every headstone.
“Every town has a story,” Hollowell said. “These guys probably never left their hometowns and, let’s face it, had the greatest adventure of their whole lives.”
He pauses a moment to reflect, “They were 18, 20-year-old boys that didn’t come home,” he said. “My definition of Memorial Day is they gave their tomorrows so I could have my today.”