Janis and Thom Snyder. (HCP photo by Caitlin Forsha)
Janis and Thom Snyder. (HCP photo by Caitlin Forsha)
A Hillsboro couple is offering a unique new service to the community with their business Grave Care Angels, which seeks to help with plot maintenance, stone cleaning and floral decorations in area cemeteries.

Thom and Janis Snyder recently began the Grave Care Angels business because it appealed to both of their interests and talents. The Snyders have a background in education, as Janis has worked for Hillsboro City Schools for 16 years and Thom is a retired teacher. However, Thom said that he and his wife have spent a lot of energy over the years taking care of their relatives’ plots, and he worked for in a local cemetery for several years as a youth.

“I’ve always had an interest in cemeteries,” Thom said. “I’ve been retired for three years, so the idea just kind of popped in my head. I thought it would be a good service to the community.”

Thom said that when he was around 12 years old, his interest in cemeteries was piqued when he began working with Vernon Paynter in the Sugar Tree Ridge Cemetery.

“He was very meticulous about the graves, making sure they were dug properly and then we’d re-sod,” Thom said. “If there was a stone already up, he made sure we cleaned it and there was no dirt around it. He was a good mentor in that regard.”

Among the services offered by Grave Care Angels are floral decoration and adornment, plot maintenance and stone cleaning. The Snyders will customize the package based on the plot’s size and specific needs, but services include general cleanup of the land, such as weeding, grass trimming and fertilizing; raking leaves and removing debris; pruning bushes and shrubs; laying mulch; watering; sodding or seeding; and pest control. Headstone care is also offered, including cleaning and polishing to remove dirt, moss and lichens.

The Snyders can also provide garden design planning and will plant spring bulbs, perennials and annuals as well as offering custom-designed memorial saddles and wreaths.

“If you are unable to care for your loved one’s grave site because you live too far away, find it difficult to manage the work or simply find visiting too emotional, we can help you in the knowledge that the services we provide will be conducted with both care and dignity,” according to the Grave Care Angels website.

All packages are customizable and based on the individual’s wishes, and customers can also choose annual, bi-annual, seasonal or special events packages.

“Our motto is ‘where your loved ones are cared for like family,’” Thom said. “We’ll do grave blankets in the winter. We’ll do an annual cleanup, seeding and fertilizing. I’ll do what’s needed to be done.”

Thom said that he has visited cemeteries in other states, including Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, looking for family graves for genealogy research. He has spent the past two years working to restore a family cemetery “in much disrepair” in Greene County and is planning to restore another family cemetery in Clermont County.

Another project Thom is working on is ordering a new headstone for a relative who was an infantryman in the Civil War.

“For the veterans, I hate to see their grave sites fall into disrepair,” Thom said.

Thom has also attended several grave care workshops to learn more about caring for headstones, including straightening and leveling. For further preparation for his business, he has also been communicating with a man in Chattanooga, Tenn. who works full-time running a similar business.

Janis, on the other hand, is skilled at flower arranging and decorating, after working at Highland Flowers “years ago.” For those who wish to take care of their loved ones’ grave sites themselves, Janis said that she is also happy to make special floral arrangements for holidays, birthdays or any other occasion.

“Even if they don’t want us to place anything on the grave for them, I can make something up for them,” Janis said. “A lot of times, I even like to see a picture of the grave before I design something, just to get in my mind what it looks like. There’s a lot of ideas that we have that we can custom-make.”

Janis says she uses high-quality silk flowers for the arrangements and can do a variety of styles, including garlands and saddles. For those who entrust her with decorating their family’s grave, Janis said that she would follow the company’s motto of “treating your loved ones like family.”

“I would decorate it like I would my family’s,” Janis said. “We thought it would be a great idea for people who live out of town or for the elderly, who wouldn’t be able to go to the grave sites to decorate their loved ones’ graves.”

In addition to working in Highland County cemeteries, the Snyders said they are open to traveling to surrounding counties as well.

“I’m familiar with Clinton, Greene, Fayette, Ross, Adams, Pike – the whole area,” Thom said.

Another feature the Snyders offer is before and after photos, which can be emailed or mailed to the customer to see the changes to a loved one’s grave site.

Thom said that some local funeral homes are already interested in their business.

“They’ve linked our website on theirs, and they’re excited about it,” Thom said.

The Snyders said that they are excited about the new business venture, too.

“I’m excited about it,” Thom said. “I’ve never owned a business in my life. I think it will be a great service for people.”

“We just got our talents and our interests together and thought it would be a nice service for the area,” Janis said.

For more information on Grave Care Angels or to get a free estimate, call (937) 303-6612 or visit https://www.highlandcountygravecare.com/