Local veteran cleans tombstones to make sure fallen soldiers aren’t forgotten

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Most people have the day off on Memorial Day, but not one local veteran.

Clarence Hollowell has spent the last year and a half cleaning tombstones at the Old City Cemetery in Springfield.

The headstone he showed me on Monday was filled with dark grime before anyone was able to make out the letters etched in stone.

After putting solution and water onto the headstone, he brushed away the grime and read off the name.

"His name is Sgt. James Delancey, Company E U.S. Colored Troops so he was a Civil War soldier," Hollowell said.

It’s not an easy task.

It’s a slow process that takes months.

"This one has got moss on it and probably 100 years of growth so you slowly chip away at that and eventually in 6 months it’ll look nice," he said.

Hollowell has cleaned almost 700 tombstones.

The Jacksonville Beach mail carrier got the idea to clean tombstones three years ago while working in his hometown of Wilson, North Carolina.

Then he came across an old cemetery.

“I noticed the headstones were blackened with age so I said there had to be a way to clean these and keep the integrity of the headstones,” Hollowell said.

For Hollowell, it hits close to home, as he served in the Army for three years and comes from a military family.

For him this type of work is all about making sure people are able to read the names and remember the people who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

“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,” he said.