Each gravesite is like a loved one’s front yard.
That’s the approach Don Wisnieski wants his crew members to take as they care for the grounds at Hillcrest Memorial Park and Prospect Hill cemeteries in Norfolk.
For the past two weeks, workers from Wisnieski Construction Co. have been mowing, whacking weeds and cleaning up the two largest graveyards in the city in preparation for Memorial Day visitors.
“We take a lot of pride in doing this,” Wisnieski said. “We try to treat every headstone like it’s a family member’s. We’ve got great people working for us that really take pride in what they’re doing.”
Wisnieski said the preparation begins about two weeks before the holiday weekend with mowing and trimming the grass around each headstone. Each location requires one person to mow and four to trim, which becomes a time-intensive task as they clean up around each headstone.
“It has to be a little bit lower because (the trimming) has to last a little bit longer,” Wisnieski said.
The crews also have to take into account grave decorations brought out by loved ones in the days leading up to the holiday weekend.
“The last thing we would ever do is ask somebody not to put stuff out because it really looks cool when everything shows up,” he said. “It takes a little bit to go around everything. That’s why we try to start a couple of weeks ahead of time.”
Wisnieski praises his crew members — especially full-time employee Pam Brunswick and 82-year-old mower Skip St. Arnold — for the level of care and devotion they show in taking care of the cemeteries.
“They really take pride in what they’re doing,” he said.
As in years past, attendants will be on hand at the cemeteries throughout the weekend to help visitors locate the graves of loved ones, Wisnieski said.
Visitors in search of a specific grave are invited to inquire at the tents that will be set up at the entrances of the cemeteries; attendants on hand will help visitors locate the grave and take them to it, he said.
Wisnieski said it felt necessary to offer the assistance to visitors once again despite the rainy forecast and the pandemic because it has been a benefit in past years. Over the years, he added, they have had people looking for the graves of loved ones in Hillcrest when the loved one actually was buried at Prospect Hill and vice versa.
“It’s something we came up with years ago and decided to try it not knowing if we’d be able to help anybody,” he said. “But, oh my gosh, there was just a tremendous amount of people that needed help finding their loved ones. It was really cool.”
Wisnieski also offered a reminder that items left at the cemetery for the Memorial Day holiday should be picked up after 10 days unless they are in a vase on the headstone. Items that are left after that will be picked up and, if possible, recycled.
“People a lot of times are disappointed that we pick up items, but we do put it in the paper and put out an announcement,” he said. “We have to go back to maintaining the grounds.”