For Kent veterans, cleaning gravestones is a 'worthwhile' cause

KENT — Nearly 100 gravestones in local cemeteries have a new look, thanks to the efforts of local veterans.

Members of Hall-Jennings American Legion Post 153 in town spent the past several months cleaning veterans’ gravestones using a biological solvent.

“I think it’s a really wonderful project,” Kent Historical Society Curator Marge Smith said.

The post began discussing the project this spring, but it didn’t get underway until June.

Andy Ocif, adjutant of American Legion Post 153 in Kent and chairman of the Kent Veterans Committee, was among the members who worked on the gravestones over a three-month period.

He was joined by fellow post members Rusty Jennings, Stanley Jennings, Butch Soule, Rob Hayes, Steve Robey, Don DeVita and Marty Lindenmayer. Altogether, they provided 160 hours of community service.

Member Stanley Jennings proposed the project, having previously discussed the idea with Smith, who who suggested using D/2 Biological Solution to clean the stones.

Smith said she has used D/2 for several years through her involvement with the Sharon Historical Burying Ground.

Names of veterans whose graves were cleaned

Congregational Cemetery: John Barton, Millard Soule, Newton Soule, John Olson, Eugene Bull, Russell Chase, Ben Howland, Gunnar Kallstrom, Leslie Roseman, Clifford Austin, William Austin, Robert Carlson, Seth Potter, Donald Ackerman, Donald Gleason, Martin Whitmore, George and Marcia Bosserman, Audley Britton, Charles Britton, Henry Britton Jr., Archilbald Welch, George Harris, Ralph Woodard, Duncan Chase, Paul Chase, Stanley Chase, Frank Chase, William Crawford and Henry Ward, and in St. Andrews Cemetery, John "Buffy " Barton, Courtney Reed, Minot Giddings and Kenneth Haxton.

Good Hill Cemetery: Wilson Eaton, Fred Bauer, Frederick Bauer, Robert Ward, James Hennessy, Thomas Hennessy, Donald Jennings, Amos Jennings, Payne Philander and Ed Goodsell; in Flanders Cemetery, Gordon Casey, Clifford Gustafson, Arthur Hack, Charles Davis and Joseph Pacocha; in Skiff Mountain Cemetery, Joseph Bianchi, Lester "Bud" Chase, Millard Stuart and Williston Case; in Bulls Bridge Cemetery, Myron Jennings.

Morningside Cemetery in Gaylordsville: Andrew Stirnweiss and James Howland.

Forty-three 43 gravestones at Kent Hollow, Sacred Heart Church and Kent School cemeteries received attention, in addition to the town's three veteran's monuments - Veterans Memorial, the Civil War Monument and the World War I Monument.

“It’s an amazing process,” she said of seeing the transformation of stones cleaned with D/2.

D/2 Biological Solution, a specially formulated solvent made without harmful agents such as acid of salts, was used to clean the local stones, some of which dated back to the Revolutionary War.

Developed by conservators, the solution is used by architectural and monument conservators, and is used at places such as Arlington National Cemetery, according to Jennings and Smith.

“It takes off lichens and moss,” Ocif said. “It worked wonderfully.”

The solution is applied to a wet stone with a brush, roller, hand pump sprayer or a low-pressure power sprayer and sets for 10 to 15 minutes. A soft brush is then used to scrub the gravestone. The solution can be reapplied.

Jennings said he used the solution to clean his parents’ graves two years ago and cited the positive results. “They’re still in good condition,” he said.

The post decided to clean as many gravestones as possible in the town’s seven cemeteries, as well as a few in nearby Gaylordsville.

But before cleaning began, post members had to obtain permission from descendants of the those buried in the cemeteries.

“The majority of them were known, though” Ocif said.

As far as what sparked the veterans to get involved in the project, Jennings said he noticed how many stones were covered in lichen and difficult to read.

“It’s nice because a lot of the people buried (in the cemeteries) I knew or were relatives,” Jennings said. “It just gives you a good feeling. ... It feels like something worthwhile.”

He said it is rewarding knowing the “next person that comes along will actually be able to read the stones because many of the stones” couldn’t be read due to lichen growth.