Read how contract cleaner John Tornabene, owner of Clean County Powerwashing, cleans a famous American hero’s gravestone, leading to a trickle-down of power washing industry good deeds.
In the early 1900s, there were no TV sets. No computers. No video games. No football, basketball, NASCAR or extreme sports. But there was baseball.
Known as America’s pastime, baseball was a sport that brought people together. It was something almost everyone knew about and experienced at some level, whether playing in the schoolyard or attending a game at the ballpark.
Baseball is a true piece of Americana. And perhaps the best known baseball player of all time is Babe Ruth. His big swing, home runs and larger-than-life personality ushered in the live-ball era, helping baseball evolve into a high-scoring, power game that exploded in popularity.
So, with these things in mind, let the game begin.
The Top of the First
John Tornabene, owner of Clean County Powerwashing in Long Island, New York, was asked by a client to go to the Gate of Heaven Cemetery to clean a customer’s family mausoleum.
This well-known cemetery happens to be where George Hermann “Babe” Ruth is buried, and his gravesite is by far the most popular spot on the grounds. Even 63 years after Ruth’s death, fans stop by almost daily, leaving flowers and gifts to honor the “Big Bambino.”
While on the property, John said he could not help but stop at the gravesite. As a pressure washing contractor, the thing that stood out behind all the gifts to honor Ruth was mold.
John had seen the tombstone before and seen the mold, so he came prepared. “Before I headed up that way, I had already thought that if there was mold on it, I might have to clean it. The tombstone just seemed like it should be cleaned,” he says. He brought with him a bag of industry-related items he had collected from various events from the UAMCC, PWNA, Pressure Washing Institute and the Grime Scene, and after the cleaning, he placed those items on the tombstone and took some photos. There was no real plan for doing this other than he felt like what he was doing was representative of something bigger – an industry that, despite its differences and controversies, never fails to give back.
Keep in mind, however, that John did this without the Ruth family’s permission, something that began to eat away at him. John’s brother-in-law later found a phone number for Babe Ruth’s granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti, in Connecticut, and John called to fess up. Instead, he got an answering machine, so he left a message telling her what he’d done. Then he added, “I didn’t mean to disrespect your grandfather. He shined in life. He should still shine in death. If you feel you need to do anything, please do what you need to do. If I disrespected you in any way, I am truly sorry.”
The following day, Linda’s husband, Andy, called back. The first words out of his mouth were, “Why did you do what you did?” John’s heart began to race.
Again, “We want to know why you did what you did. Linda is shocked by this.”
Andy continued, “She can’t believe that these days someone would do something like this. She is so excited!”
Later that day, Linda called John again to thank him and a friendship began. John began to tell her about the power washing industry, about Clean Across America, Cleaning for Heroes, and how the industry regularly gives to their communities by cleaning things for free.
Linda, whose mission in life is to spread the word of her grandfather’s numerous charitable acts and to honor those who follow in his footsteps, wanted to do something special to thank John.
Last night, that idea turned to reality.
Read the full story about this contract cleaner below.
This article is featured in the Fall 2011 issue of PCC Magazine.