Photos: Preparing graves for Memorial Day

People & Places Nikki Tundel · ·

1 John Peterson washes a monument in Calvary Cemetery in St. Paul, Minn., on May 7, 2011. Peterson started Grave Groomers, a cemetery maintenance and beatification service, in 1999. His customers hire him to do everything from polish the headstones of their loved ones to lay flowers on their graves. 
2 John Peterson arrives at Crystal Lake Cemetery in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 27, 2011, with bouquets of red, white and blue flowers. Heading into Memorial Day, a large number of customers hire Peterson to simply place flowers on the graves of their loved ones. 
3 John Peterson, left, and apprentice Eric Mitchell reset a grave marker that, over time, had settled into the ground unevenly. 
4 Heading into Memorial Day weekend, John Peterson spends a lot of time in Twin Cities cemeteries. Typical jobs include monument cleaning, bronze refinishing and stone polishing. 
5 John Peterson puts a fresh coat of paint on a large urn that serves as a grave marker. "I like seeing the cemeteries around Memorial Day. I like seeing how all the hard work turned out," says Peterson. "And I like knowing that people care that their families' graves look good." 
6 Eric Mitchell polishes a grave-side statue at Calvary Cemetery in St. Paul, Minn., on May 7, 2011. When it comes to cleaning monuments, tools of the trade include everything from kitchen scrubbers to toothbrushes. 
7 Some families hire John Peterson to tend to graves of recently deceased loved ones. Others want him to care for the burial sites of those who passed away long ago. 
8 With a scrub brush, Eric Mitchell removes layers of pollution and exhaust from a monument at Calvary Cemetery in St. Paul, Minn., on May 7, 2011. "This job is more meticulous than physically demanding," says Mitchell. "You really feel a sense of accomplishment when you're done. It's amazing." 
9 John Peterson places flowers next to grave markers in Crystal Lake Cemetery in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 27, 2011. "Some people hire me to bring flowers because they live out of the area and can't come to the cemetery," says Peterson. "Others want me to do it so when they get here to pay their respects, the grave looks good." 
10 John Peterson smiles as he admires a freshly cleaned monument at Calvary Cemetery in St. Paul, Minn., on May 7, 2011. "When I first starting doing this work, the initial reaction from people was, 'You're nuts.' They thought I was crazy to want to work in a cemetery," says Peterson. "But I think it's great. It's peaceful out here."