TAMPA, Fla. – On any given day, Andrew Lumish arrives at a historic Tampa-area cemetery without fanfare or attention. He’s there to carefully restore veteran’s gravestones blackened by the elements and decades of neglect.
Cemeteries across the country will show you a similar scene—thousands of long-forgotten monuments belonging to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
But Lumish, a cleaning company owner, aims to refurbish the memories – and the gravestones – of America’s heroes whose time-worn tombstones have started falling apart.
Lumish said he stumbled upon a Tampa cemetery five years ago to photograph some gravestones, but what he saw that day would change his life.
“So many veteran’s monuments…were in really poor condition and it was upsetting to me,” he said. “I didn’t want for them to be forgotten…I started to research how to properly restore monuments.”
His preparation is always the same, even after 1,500 completed restorations.
He is given permission to restore a monument from cemetery staff or a descendant, charges no fee for his services and brings all his own equipment—a few 5-gallon water containers, some microfiber towels and an assortment of over 12 brushes ranging in shape and size.
Recent, he was restoring the gravestone of Milton H. Phelps, a U.S. Army Private First Class in World War II who died in 1973 at the age of 67.
“Each one tells a story…our subject right here is originally from New York state,” says Lumish, as he methodically sprays the stone while scrubbing away mold and mildew so deeply permeated that each swirl of his brush creates a wave of green muck.
He rinses the stone with water to check his progress and sprays it again with something called D/2 biological solution, which Lumish said is the only product used to clean monuments in national cemeteries.
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