Many people choose to use their days off for leisure and relaxation. Clarence Hollowell spends his days off in a different manner though — cleaning headstones at the local cemetery.
The 60-year-old works as a mailman five days a week in Jacksonville, Florida.
However, when his weekend rolls around, instead of heading for the beach, Hollowell heads over to the Old City Cemetery.
He spends every Sunday morning meticulously scrubbing down headstone after headstone.
“Everybody’s gotta have a project,” Hollowell told The Florida Times Union, “and I think if you can help the community, even better.”
Jacksonville isn’t the first community Hollowell has assisted either.
He used to live in North Carolina where he also worked for the postal service and cleaned headstones in his spare time. He specifically looks for the military ones, as Hollowell has a soft spot for veterans.
Not only did he come from a military family, but he also served in the army for three years himself.
Cleaning the graves is Hollowell’s way of honoring veterans everywhere.
He researches the names behind every grave that he scrubs to learn more information about the individual and how they died.
“I go to Ancestry.com and find out about them,” explained Hollowell.
He writes all of their names down in a book as he cleans so he can look them up later.
What he finds is pretty interesting.
“Every town has a story,” said Hollowell. “These guys probably never left their hometowns and, let’s face it, had the greatest adventure of their whole lives.”
Each grave gets Hollowell’s personal attention.
His tools of choice are a small bristle brush and a big bottle of cleaning solution. He’ll often scrub back and forth on a single grave for an hour or so, scraping off any dirt and growth from the exterior. He washes it off with water in between.
A coating of the cleaning solution kills the rest of the bacteria and brightens everything up.
In two or three weeks, Hollowell can have whole sections of formerly grimy headstones completely restored. Pale yellow headstones are returned to a light gray and others to a marble white.
To date, he estimates that he has cleaned about 700 of them.
His goal is to make sure all of the names are clearly visible so that people passing by can see them and read what they say.
As he cleans the graves, Hollowell thinks about the stories of the soldiers and what it must have been like to be them.
“They didn’t want to go to war but they did and they didn’t come home and they defended this country and they fought for this country,” Hollowell told Action News Jax.
Every weekend, Hollowell heads out to the cemetery to work, but on Memorial Day, the postman takes extra-special note.
“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 mine today.”
Hollowell knows that without our veterans, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy so many of the amazing things that we have today in society. We owe them so much, and cleaning the headstones is Hollowell’s small way of showing his appreciation.
Check out the original Tweet about the story and more pictures of the mailman cleaning headstones below.
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Some men golf on their days off. Clarence Hollowell, 60, cleans headstones. This morning, I followed him around the Old City Cemetery and watched the process. “This is my way of honoring America’s veterans,” he said. @jaxdotcom story coming soon. pic.twitter.com/Vq7KiwMZN2
— Emily Bloch 🐘 (@emdrums) May 26, 2019