by RICH RODRIGUEZ
VISALIA, Calif. (KMPH) - A trip to the cemetery is a Thanksgiving week tradition for many families.
Too often loved ones are shocked to see the beating headstones take from the harsh Valley weather.
But there's a headstone restorer in Visalia who accepts any challenge.
Vanessa Aguirre has been cleaning headstones since she was a kid. She learned how to do it from her dad.
Visalia woman spends her free time in cemeteries restoring headstones (FOX26)
Aguirre is not willing to share all of her secrets, but she did let KMPH tag along to see how it's done.
First, she trims the grass around the headstone and blows away the grass clippings and dirt.
Step one on the headstone, remove the calcium build-up.
Visits to the cemetery have changed dramatically during 2020.
Big funerals are prohibited during COVID-19 so loved ones are spending more time visiting gravesites.
But some grave markers have taken a beating over time.
Aguirre considers every weathered headstone a challenge that only needs polish and some paint to restore.
Her hobby quickly changed to part-time work.
"I never thought I was gonna restore over 200 headstones but here I am and I'm blessed," said Aguirre. "I'll continue to restore as many headstones that I can to bring them back to life."
Restoration work takes Aguirre to cemeteries all over the area.
"I find each and every cemetery peaceful and it's just a place to get away. Quiet, you can hear the birds chirping," she said.
Roughly 45 minutes after starting the project, the change is dramatically different. "To bring them back to life and to see the shine, that's a rewarding feeling," said Aguirre.
The holidays bring steady work for Aguirre but she says Mother's Day week is the busiest of the year.
Prices vary on restoration projects.
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Visalia woman spends her free time in cemeteries restoring headstones