Rogers finds ‘solution’ for cleaner graves

Rogers finds ‘solution’ for cleaner graves

Gravestones at St. Mary’s Cemetery for Mary and Bridget Stars, left, after they’ve been cleaned with a biodegradable cleaning solution. At right is Bridget’s stone before it was cleaned.

PAWTUCKET – Few cemeteries in Rhode Island are kept up as well as the old St. Mary’s Cemetery off George Street in Pawtucket, but the man behind all the restoration work says he’s still not satisfied.

Tom Rogers, of Pawtucket, had long been frustrated by the dark, age stains that mark many of the graves. Until recently, attempts to wash the graves over the eight years he’s volunteered in the cemetery had been largely unsuccessful.

But then Rogers heard about something called D/2 Biological Solution, a biodegradable cleaning solution from Ted Kinnari of Westport, Mass. He immediately went to buy some of the agent, which is effective in removing biological and air pollutant staining and has been used at graves and monuments across the country.

The results, said Rogers, have been stunning. So far he’s used the agent on a few dozen gravestones in the Pawtucket cemetery, and the aging stones are looking almost new. Rogers said he plans to use the cleaning agent to bring back as many stones as possible over time.

Each stone takes 90 minutes or longer to clean fully, said Rogers, but the end result is worth it. Many of the names on the stones are hard to read before he starts his work, he said, but are bold and clear once he’s done. This is all about giving proper respect to those buried here, he said.

Rogers said his recent success at improving the look of the gravestones is especially important given the number of visitors that the cemetery is now getting. After he and other volunteers photographed every gravestone two years ago and put them on www.findagrave.com , people from all over the country have been coming in search of some of the famous people buried in the cemetery.

Famed Irish folk hero and martyr John Gordon is one of those buried here, as well as many Civil War soldiers.

Rogers, with help from other members of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, cares for the St. Mary’s Cemetery at no cost to the St. Mary’s Parish. The ongoing labor of love includes regular trimming of vegetation, repainting of fences, and caring for a garden.

The Friendly Sons won a $5,000 grant from local Rep. Mary Duffy Messier three years ago to start restoration of the carriage house on the property.

St. Mary’s Cemetery volunteer Tom Rogers says he’s thrilled about how the stones there are looking after cleaning them with a special agent. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)