The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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June 23, 2013

‘I do it out of respect’: Jerome man volunteers to cut grass at neglected cemetery

JOHNSTOWN — Every week or so, Pete Clawson of Jerome can be seen driving his tractor and trailer to the Russian Orthodox cemetery outside of Jerome to mow the grass.

In addition to the tractor that he uses to cut the grass on the hilly cemetery, he also hauls a lawn mower and other equipment to trim the grass.

The church that buried its parishioners at the cemetery has been closed for about 50 years, a local funeral director said. The grass was mowed only once or twice a year since then, said Joseph Hoffman, a funeral director with Hoffman Funeral Homes in Davidsville and Boswell.

There are 18 World War I veterans, one World War II veteran and one Desert Storm veteran resting in peace at the cemetery.

Clawson said he was driving past the cemetery four years ago when he noticed that the grass was as high as his waist.

“I just started cutting it down little by little and got it back into shape,” Clawson said.

He then cleaned debris from the roadside ditch in front of the cemetery.

“I do it out of respect,” Clawson said. “You have to have respect for the people who are buried there.”

It takes Clawson about two to three hours to cut the grass, weed the cemetery and reset the holders for American flags on the graves of veterans.

“It is self-satisfying,” he said about the rewards that volunteering brings.

Clawson, a carpenter and retired owner of Clawson Carpentry, has built and remodeled homes throughout the United States. Although retired, he still does some remodeling in the local area.

For his efforts, Clawson is the Person of the Week.

Hoffman said the last funeral he had at the cemetery was in the 1960s, with the church closing a short time later.

“This man (Clawson) has been cutting it the last couple of years, using his own gasoline and equipment,” Hoffman said.

Clawson is not a member of a Russian Orthodox Church nor does he have a family member buried there, said Hoffman, who has helped Clawson to repair flag holders for veterans buried at the cemetery.

“He saw something that needed to be done, took the bull by the horns, and did it. That speaks of his character.

“He does an excellent job. It’s nice to see that volunteerism is not dead.”

Tribune-Democrat editors select a Person of the Week from nominations made by readers. To nominate someone, call 532-5058, 24 hours a day.

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