By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
The grass was cut, the leaves were raked and the weeds were pulled.
Joe Zvolanek was pleased with the morning’s work.
He had put his hat on and was about to head home — but he spotted something.
There was a stick that had made its way to his father’s grave.
“Can’t have that,” he said.
So, using his cane for support, the man who turns 90 on Monday bent over to get it.
That’s a common sight to the office staff at Hillcrest Cemetery in Temple.
“Mr. Joe’s out here every morning,” said manager Patricia Benoit. “Working, watering and mowing. He keeps an eye on everything, and if there’s anything that needs to be fixed, he tells us.”
Joe’s at the cemetery by 7 a.m. and gone by 9:30 a.m.
“And that’s all the days,” he said. “Even Sundays. I guess you could say I’m a working alcoholic or whatever.”
His efforts are for the upkeep of his family’s grave markers.
A large tombstone that reads “Zvolanek” marks the boundary of Joe’s land at Hillcrest. His name and birth date are on the left, and his wife’s name is on the right. She died in 1973.
The three grave markers to the right belong to his mother, father and stepmother.
“Those four are buried,” Joe said. “The other five, these to the left, they’re saved for my boy and his family.”
He started his daily ritual in 1991.
“I wanted this place (Hillcrest) to look like something,” he said. “This is the place where Scott & White doctors are buried. This is where their customers are buried. But everything was overgrown and messed up.”
Joe wanted to get the place in shape. So he started his daily trek out to the cemetery with tools and push mower in tow. He also started writing letters to the Temple mayor asking that the City use some of its funds to refurbish the grounds of Hillcrest Cemetery.
In Joe’s scrapbook of Hillcrest memories, the City’s reply was a copy of a Telegram article that said cemetery work was unlikely because of limited funds.
Articles from Telegram archives report that it took about three years for Hillcrest to be refurbished.
“It’s a lot better now,” Joe said. “But the streets out here need work. They have potholes in them.”
If you’re still wondering why Joe spends all that time at the cemetery, the answer is simple. It’s love for his family.
“My daddy and I were together for 57 years. I associated with him every day, so I’m partial to him. I’m partial to all of them. They’d do it for me, so I’m glad to do it for them.”