Most people enjoy time off from work, spent relaxing, or participating in recreational activities. One Florida mailman takes his patriotism seriously. When 60-year-old Clarence Hollowell isn’t busy delivering mail to his community, he spends his time in the cemetery. As an Army veteran and member of a military family, Hollowell dedicated himself to cleaning the graves of unvisited service members. Instead of disappearing into the void and being left forgotten, Clarence researches the dead that he cares for and cleans their headstones every weekend. Every Sunday Mr. Hollowell gets to work in his local rundown cemetery, in service of the departed.
Heeding The Call
Six days a week, army veteran and mailman, Clarence Hollowell delivers the mail. When Sunday arrives, or Clarence finds some free time, he spends it in an unlikely place. Clarence has made it his mission to look after veteran’s gravestones that are in disrepair. The 60-year-old postal worker figures he has cleaned at least 600 headstones, and he is not stopping there.
Clarence had this to say about his community project. “My definition of Memorial Day is they gave their tomorrows so I could have mine today.” Mr. Hollowell focuses on cleaning the gravestones of service members who were between the ages of 18 and 20-years-old. Clarence makes an effort to visit Old City Cemetery in Springfield, Florida, with his arsenal of tools in tow.
Over the years, many headstones of fallen warriors succumb to overgrowth, neglect, and buildup. Clarence comes with a unique cleaning solution, water, soft-bristled brush, toothbrush, and scraper to restore the headstones to their former glory. The cleaning solution that Mr. Hollowell uses costs $40 a gallon. It takes Clarence anywhere from two to three weeks to carefully clean each chosen gravesite. He starts from one corner and works his away across the headstone with his brush.
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
While cleaning the graves, Clarence jots down the name of the soldier at his feet. Later on, Mr. Hollowell looks up the name of the veteran on Ancestry.com so he can learn more about them. Uncovering the history of his charges helps Clarence feel a deeper connection to his work. The postal worker has tended to the gravestones of service members like Captain S.L. Tibbitts and James H. Savelle. Some of the men whose headstones Mr. Hollowell attended to dated back to 1918.
Typically, most people spend their free time binge-watching episodes on Netflix, watching sports, or hanging out with family. Clarence Hollowell is an extraordinary individual of interest for his unique community service. When men and women heed the call to join the armed forces and serve their country, they never know what tomorrow will bring. Many veterans do not make it home but are laid to rest in cemeteries across the country or are M.I.A. Mr. Hollowell takes his community service a step further, by not only caring for the headstones but documenting the veteran’s history. He puts a story to a name, letting the dead know that they are remembered and honored for their sacrifice.
As dedicated to his work as a postal service worker delivering mail six days a week, Clarence Hollowell happily serves others. Online Twitter, various Florida news outlets like the Miami Herald and WKRG shared Clarence’s story. The story received likes and positive comments. Twitter user, AR Workshop Mobile, commented, “Awesome. Thank you!” Memorial Day is not only once a year, but for some, it is something to honor every week. Veterans give their lives in service to their country, and countrymen like Clarence Hollowell are ready to repay that debt with honor and respect.
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