Each time Hanover Township resident Christian Choman cleans a gravestone as part of his pressure-washing business, he voluntarily spruces up one belonging to a veteran.
Since Memorial Day, the 24-year-old has scrubbed and sprayed decades of dirt and moss off more than 100 veteran stones at area cemeteries on his own dime.
Several limestone veteran headstones he has fussed over are easy to spot at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Hanover Township because they are bright white in a sea of darker ones. Before, they were blackened and difficult to read.
”They came out literally like new,” he said Tuesday after cleaning two more veteran graves in the intense heat.
Choman keeps the power washing equipment and extension cords in a trailer hooked up to his vehicle.
At St. Mary’s, he and employee Colin Pasone gently moved a weed trimmer around the perimeter of the stones, followed by a dose of water from a pressure washer that is more delicate than the one for commercial uses.
The men poured a cleaning mixture over the stones based on their type and scrubbed the surfaces and etchings with a handheld brush. The process was repeated as necessary.
The grandson of a veteran, Choman was inspired to clean the graves when aging veterans sought volunteers to help place flags on graves for Memorial Day.
Placement of the more than 85,000 flags on graves annually falls entirely on volunteers, and the 60-plus veteran services posts that have been handling the task are increasingly reliant on non-veteran help. More than 25 additional individuals and groups signed up to help with this decorating.
Choman knew most of these 85,000 graves also could use a cleaning and decided to chip away at the problem as a way of thanking veterans for their service.
“We are able to do this because of them,” he said, referring to veterans. “It’s the least we can do.”
He also views public service as an important part of a business, particularly a new one that must “earn respect.” Choman opened Choman’s Mobile Care earlier this year, focusing on vehicle detailing, power washing, lawn and cemetery grave care. Information is at www.chomancares.com.
When business is slow, Choman also has been meeting with local veteran service organizations to offer his help with public memorial stones and monuments honoring veterans in their communities. He and his team have cleaned at least seven of these memorials to date, and he stressed he has not accepted money to cover the cost of his workers and supplies.
Choman will continue his gratis veteran program, even if his business grows and gets busy.
“This is just something I’m really passionate about,” Choman said. “Sometimes the world can be such a negative place, and I want people — especially our older generation — to know that there is good in the world.”
Ex-Wall Street worker
A 2012 graduate of Holy Redeemer High School in Wilkes-Barre, Choman said he quit playing baseball when he was a junior at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, to concentrate more on his studies and career.
After a 10-week internship at Morgan Stanley, the company offered him a full-time job when he graduated with a finance degree. Choman spent three years supporting financial advisors and traders at offices on Wall Street and Times Square but kept thinking about his dream to own a business.
“I was happy working on Wall Street, but it wasn’t really something I wanted to continue doing,” he said.
With his family’s blessing to move back home, he settled on a mix of business services to keep busy in all seasons. He also wanted to incorporate cemeteries and flowers because his grandmother, Theresa, was a professional florist and had owned Oxford Floral in Hanover Township.
Cemetery maintenance is a common business, particularly in the South, he said. Some cemeteries have decreased or eliminated trimming around headstones due to finances, and loved ones increasingly rely on professionals to care for graves because they are aging or live too far away, Choman said.
In addition to cleaning the gravestones, Choman and his workers remove high grass and weeds, spread out mulch and plant flowers.
“It’s like individualized perpetual care,” he said.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.