Speed Reads

It wasn't all bad

Man honors veterans by restoring their gravestones

A gravestone cleaned by Andrew Lumish.

Armed with water, brushes, and environmentally safe cleaning solution, Andrew Lumish spends every Sunday at Woodlawn Cemetery in Tampa cleaning the gravestones of veterans who fought in conflicts from the Civil War to Vietnam.

"It's pretty messy, pretty dirty," he told WUSF. "We're pulling out dirt and biological material that's been here since 1921. So, a lot of elbow grease here." Lumish says that over the last five years, he's cleaned about 600 gravestones, with some covered in so much mold and mildew it was impossible to read the names. It all started when Lumish, a history buff, was at another cemetery taking photos, and saw how the gravestones of some veterans were in complete disrepair. Because he owns his own cleaning company, Lumish decided he would give back by bringing new life to the gravestones.

It takes Lumish anywhere from four days to four months to finish cleaning a gravestone; it's easier when a stone is made of marble or granite and the dirt stays on the surface, rather than limestone and sandstone, which are porous. Lumish uses genealogy websites and records at the library stretching back to the 1800s to get information on the veterans, and he posts what he learns on a Facebook page called Good Cemeterian. He's also inspired others, now serving as a consultant and helping Potter County in Pennsylvania clean its own veterans' tombstones. "We uncover heroes," Lumish said. "They were not considered heroes of their day, so I hope that some of the stories that I tell make people appreciate the men and women that serve currently. There are heroes today that surround us on a daily basis." Catherine Garcia