Boy Scouts clean headstones at Royalton cemetery

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — Jacob Maynard wanted to do something that would benefit his community.

The 13-year-old decided to call Royalton Township Hall, where he was put in touch with Manager Steve Tilly. He had a couple of things in mind and asked if Maynard was willing to wash some of the headstones at the Spring Run Cemetery.

The Upton Middle School student enlisted the help of his Boy Scout troop and began to research how to clean the headstones.

“Pretty much my whole troop was involved,” Jacob said. “I organized with troop leaders and got volunteers and some of my family to help. There were about 11 people who were cleaning the cemetery and helping out.”

Troop No. 623 from First Congregational Church along Niles Avenue came out to support Maynard’s cause. From 1-6 p.m for three days between Aug. 21-26, Jacob and others were out cleaning, washing and scrubbing away the dirt and grime that covered a good portion of the headstones.

Tilly said since then, another scout troop has reached out for a project to do. Tilly said it’s been about a decade since a troop last asked him if they could help in the Royalton Township community.

“I didn’t have the scouts do the whole cemetery, but another scout reached out for another project. This might be something they can do next year,” Tilly said. “He organized the other troop members and set a schedule for when they could come in and clean. I thanked (Jacob) for having an interest in community service at such a young age.”

Jacob estimated they cleaned about 180 headstones in that last week of August. Most of them were coated in vegetation and dirt because many grave markers are slowly being destroyed by biological microbes, which feed on the minerals that make up the stones.

In order to get rid of the muck, Jacob needed a chemical that wouldn’t damage the headstones or the vegetation and grass around them. That meant no acids or bleaches. To prevent any further damage to the headstones, Jacob had to refrain from using sandblasting tools, power washers or wire brushes.

After some research online, Jacob found a product called D2 – a biological cleaner. He discovered it was the same cleaner used by the government at its national cemetery.

There was a supply of it in Holland, Mich., which had to be ordered by Tilly in gallon jugs.

Jacob said the difficult part was getting used to using the D2 cleaner.

“Once you get used to it, it’s not as difficult,” he said. “The way you have to spray it on the gravestone depends, and then you have to wait like 10 minutes for it to work on the dirt. After that, you spray it again and then scrub it. It was about getting everyone coordinated.”

Jacob’s mom, Brandy, said she was delighted by her son’s initiative. She documented each day’s worth of work.

“I think it was a really great project,” she said. “He was able to learn a lot of different things to take with him. Organization, leadership skills and getting other people to support a really great community project.”

The work didn’t stop there.

In the older part of the cemetery, Jacob and a few others walked through and looked at all the stones. They took note of what ones were sinking into the ground so the township could go back and install a foundation.

“Steve gave him a map so they could mark them down as they went,” Brandy said. “Steve was saying they cut the grass all the time and always forget which ones need to be straightened.”

This was Jacob’s first project coordinating with the Boy Scouts. However, he’s helped with other troop projects before, which included building a trail and painting fire hydrants.

“It was fun to get together and talking to people while getting the project done,” Jacob said. “I’ve never been in charge of a project before and that’s pretty special. Whatever the other Boy Scouts find or are interested in doing, I’ll help. It’s a great after-school activity.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Sept. 17, 2016)

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