As a man who has never served in the military, 46 year old Andrew Lumish has no problem utilizing what spare time he has to honor veterans in a unique way.
He’s called “The Good Cemeterian”, and he likes to scrub and clean the gravestones of long dead military veterans dating all the way back to the Civil War.
The Good Cemeterian with a mission
A man with a passion for photography, Lumish was at a cemetery shooting photos of historic graves when he found that the disrepair of some gravestones troubled him.
“Something bothered me”, he told the Tampa Bay Times, “[t]heir final resting places were total disasters.”
Covered in decades worth of grime, Lumish stated that they had “been neglected from the time they’d been buried.” From there he decided on the perfect way for him to honor veterans.
The owner of an upholstery and carpet cleaning franchise, the man had never cleaned a headstone.
That didn’t stop him from researching the proper techniques to do so. Armed with a soft brush and the same biological cleaning solution which is used to clean graves at the Arlington National Cemetery, Lumish now spends his weekends locating the graves of veterans and cleaning out every nook and cranny to restore the artifacts as best he can.
A history buff, Lumish takes extra time to determine which conflicts these veterans may have fought in. Recognizing that veterans take risks and make sacrifices, he states “we know how to honor them while they are living.” With a way to honor them while they are dead, Andrew takes the restoration of these monuments seriously.
“If you’re going to restore monuments, the key is, you don’t want to do more damage,” Lumish stated.
Over the last five years, Andrew Lumish has restored more than 500 monuments. Trying to learn about the lives of those he honors, Andrew tells NBC News that he feels connected to them, remarking that “it’s very important for me to be able to tell their story and I love to be able to show these individuals and show their accomplishments.”
A story that Lumish has come to know well is that of Lewis Franklin Vaughan, a World War I veteran who was killed at the age of 18 when a German submarine sank the U.S.S. Tampa. Andrew learned that Lewis Vaughan was the only surviving child of a family that had lost three daughters prior to the death of Vaughan.
Lumish feels that it is important to know the stories of people like Lewis Vaughan because they aren’t in our history books.
For now, the Good Cemeterian is still actively restoring graves and you can check him out on Facebook.