Who : Alec Gouvas, Boy Scout Troop #79
What : Headstone Cleaning
Where : Veteran’s Section, Fairview Cemetery, Bowling Green, KY
Like rows of dirty teeth, the marble headstones stuck out of the grassy ground.
Blackened by algae, mottled by mold, the rows of embattled monuments marked the last resting places of 760 men and women of the U.S. Armed Services in the Davis-Hoffman Veterans’ Section, Fairview Cemetery, Bowling Green, Ky.
And while many may have felt the veterans buried there deserved better than those dark and dirty markers, on Oct. 1, one young man took action.
“I’d see those stones on my way to school, or running errands,” said Boy Scout Alec Gouvas, 14, of Bowling Green. “I thought if we could clean them, it would show that people still care about how the people buried there defended our country.”
Alec, who has attained Scouting’s second-highest rank – “Life Scout” – in Troop 79, Bowling Green, took the matter up with his Scout Master, Mike Dowell and his father, Ernie, who also happens to be Bowling Green’s Director of Parks and Recreation.
The idea to clean the headstones turned into Alec’s project for making Eagle Scout.
“I thought we’d be able to clean them with soap and a garden hose,” he recalled.
That turned out to not be the case. A preliminary visit to the cemetery revealed that most of the staining was embedded.
“We tried scraping it off, but it wouldn’t move,” Alec said.
A call to the Bowling Green branch office of Lee Brick & Block for advice resulted in a visit to the cemetery by PROSOCO representative Ben Bates of Specialty Materials Inc., Nicholasville, Ky. With him was Charlie Henry of Lee Brick & Block, and PROSOCO Sales Manager Mike Trotta.
Their tests pointed to Enviro Klean BioWash. In response to a call from Mr. Bates, PROSOCO donated a case of the environmentally responsible cleaner concentrate to Alec’s effort.
“It worked great,” Alec said. “The algae, the caked on dirt, all came off easy.”
PROSOCO’s wasn’t the only donation. About 36 volunteers – friends, family and city workers – even a crew from the city jail – donated their time and effort. The American Legion donated $200 to the project. Alec used that money to buy scrub brushes, safety equipment and drinks for his workers.
During the 4-hour cleaning, Alec deployed his troops in waves. First, a group with pump-up garden sprayers went through, applying the BioWash to the stones. The next group gently scrubbed, and let the cleaner “dwell” about five minutes.
Then came the pressure washers, rinsing the spent cleaner and dissolved grime harmlessly off the now-pristine stone.
The results, Alec said, were “Wow!“
Before the cleaning was even finished, friends and families of the interred veterans had showed up to thank Alec and his crewmembers. The response continued after with a story in the Bowling Green Daily News, and phone calls to both Alec and the cemetery.
“I got two really happy calls the week after,” Alec said. “One was from a man whose father was buried there. Another was from a lady I never met. She just called up to say she was proud of me.”
Written by Gary Henry. Gary is a business communications specialist with PROSOCO, a national manufacturer of products that clean, protect and maintain concrete, brick and stone.