Menomonie (WQOW)- Memorial Day weekend is a popular time to celebrate the unofficial start to summer by camping, hosting a cookout or heading to the lake. But for many Americans, the holiday signifies more, serving as a time to reflect on loved ones that are no longer here.
For one seven-year-old from Menomonie, cleaning the resting places of the fallen has become more than a way to give back. It's become a hobby.
Sophia Olson and her aunt Jamie Wagner have found a pastime in cleaning the gravestones of family relatives at cemeteries around Dunn County.
Wagner said after studying her genealogy and family history, she decided to make her way around the county to visit the gravestones of her family members.
After noticing many of them were in rough shape, she took it upon herself to clean them up. Little did she know, she would find a dedicated helper in her niece Sophia.
"I've been cleaning gravestones for a couple years," said Wagner. "She kind of latched on in the past year and she seemed really interested in it, so I took her out a couple times and she absolutely loves it. She loves cleaning and talking about our relatives and things like that. She just seems to brighten up and just really enjoys it."
For her seventh birthday, Sophia asked for a gravestone cleaning kit, which includes a special kind of soap and monument cleaner to properly clean the gravestones without risking corrosion. Sophia said washing down the gravestones makes her feel connected to the family members that came before her.
"I think it's really fun because I can spend time with ones who aren't alive anymore and that are part of my family," said Olson. "That's why I like it."
Over the past couple of years, the pair has put together a binder of roughly 70 before-and-after photos of gravestones they have cleaned.