BLANCHESTER — It’s 7 a.m., barely daylight, and McKenzie “Mickey” Weiss, is walking across the grounds with an orange bucket and a white two-gallon sprayer with water.
Mickey is on a mission. She has set a goal of cleaning 100 veteran tombstones before her birthday in September, and she’s well on her way with over 75 already.
She started cleaning headstone in April at Myers Cemetery in Goshen and then received permission to clean tombstones closer to home at the IOOF Cemetery in Blanchester.
Mickey said since the veterans have done so much for us, she was inspired to do something for them that will have a lasting impact.
She got the information on how to clean stones on YouTube. She uses a natural product called D-2 that she gets online at atlaspreservation.com. It is the same product they use at Arlington.
Weiss says you do not want to ever use a household product like bleach on a stone, and never power wash them. The first thing that she does is spray it down with water, then squirt the D-2 on and wait five minutes and then you can start scraping off the lichens with a plastic putty knife.
Spray more water on the stone as you are working as it is important to keep it wet. You can then take a soft brittle brush and start scrubbing around the names and dates.
Sometimes you can see a difference right away. Some stones may turn a yellowish color first — that is called a blush. After the product sits on the stone and after it has been scrubbed, the blush goes away. The longer the product stays on the stone, the longer it works, so even after you are done, it is still cleaning.
Mickey does this in her spare time, in-between working a job and taking care of her autistic son. She likes to go early in the morning before it gets too hot and later in the evening after the sun goes down.
“If more people would get involved, we could have every tombstone in the cemetery cleaned up.,” she said.
When asked if it was an expensive hobby, she jokingly said, “Yes, I work to support my hobby!”
She said the one-quart spray bottle cost about $20 and can clean 9-10 stones.
Mickey is a preservationist that is keeping these tombstones from being lost to time. Mold, mildew, lichens, dirt, and the environment will eventually take their toll on these old monuments if they are not properly cleaned occasionally. Half of them were so bad the names could not be read at all.
Will Mickey be able to reach her goal by her birthday in September? She said she was delayed a month in June because her son had to have surgery.
If you would like to see the names of the veterans’ stones that she has cleaned already, and keep up with her accomplishment, you can friend her on Facebook at Mickey Weiss (McKinzie Brown). Send her an Instant Message if you would like to help or start cleaning in another cemetery.
She warns it is a dirty job, and she has had to fight heat, sweat, bees, rain, and people coming out of the woods, but she has persevered.
The rewards include feeling peaceful and empowered, as well as seeing deer roaming the cemetery.
The American Legion Auxiliary in Blanchester is proud to have Mickey as a member and Chairman of the Legislation Committee.
Mickey has cleaned up tombstones from veterans that served in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and every war since then. The oldest ones date from the 1860s.
Very few know what Mickey is doing — but it is certain that the veterans, their families, the pioneer families, every patriot, and everybody in town will appreciate Mickey’s selfless service.
Linda Mider is president of the American Legion Auxiliary Marion Unit 179, Blanchester.