Cover Stories

Grave Work Helps Families Honor Their Loved Ones

After long career in the tech world, Syracuse resident now owns With All Respect Due LLC, a gravesite maintenance company

By Margaret McCormick

Tim O’Boyle of Syracuse started his business gravesite maintenance business after working in the tech industry for many year. “It’s always interesting to see how people are remembered in these places, to see the inscriptions and dates and epitaphs and what they lived through,’’ he says. Photos by Margaret McCormick

Tim O’Boyle has always felt drawn to cemeteries. He and his wife, Linda, have trekked to Arlington National Cemetery to visit The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and admire the thousands of meticulous white marble stones honoring America’s war dead.

While in New York City, they went to see Hamilton — not the Broadway musical, but the spot where Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of our country, was laid to rest in Trinity Church Cemetery.

In Paris, their tombstone tourist agenda included Pere Lachaise cemetery, the final resting place of opera singer Maria Callas, writer Oscar Wilde, pianist and composer Frederic Chopin, and singer, songwriter and vocalist Jim Morrison of The Doors.

These days, O’Boyle is spending a good amount of time in Central New York cemeteries.

The Syracuse resident, who will turn 55 this fall, is the founder of With All Respect Due LLC, a gravesite maintenance company.

His services include cleaning family mausoleums, headstones and ground-level markers, straightening headstones that have shifted in the earth and general site maintenance and beautification, like grass trimming and flower and plant installation and care.

Rules and regulations for such services vary from cemetery to cemetery and O’Boyle operates within the guidelines of each one. He’s not buried in work, but the job is keeping him busy, so far.

“I want to help people honor their families,’’ O’Boyle said of his service. “These sites are the final resting place of someone who means something to you.’’

O’Boyle’s job is seasonal, roughly April to late October, depending on the weather. It’s his semi-retirement occupation and he comes to it after a long career in the tech world. He supported sales of computer systems for a local company as their technical solutions architect and when that company was sold, he worked as a product manager and in product development for the new owners, a global electronics company.

O’Boyle also works part-time for the Onondaga County Public Library, delivering books to local libraries that patrons have reserved online. With All Respect Due gets him outdoors and into the peaceful, park-like settings of local cemeteries and burial grounds. So does the volunteer work he does through the website Find a Grave (

In his off hours, O’Boyle helps people locate and virtually visit the final disposition places of their loved ones with updated pictures.

Before and After — At a recent job at Assumption Cemetery, off Court Street on the North Side of Syracuse, Tim O’Boyle removed the mold and lichens that have taken up residence on a gravestone.

Tromping through cemeteries might seem morbid to some, but it isn’t to O’Boyle. It’s a learning experience. “It’s always interesting to see how people are remembered in these places, to see the inscriptions and dates and epitaphs and what they lived through,’’ he said.

Why this line of work and why now? These days, O’Boyle noted, families are scattered, and family gravesites become overlooked, overgrown and generally unkempt. A lot of times, all that’s needed is some personal attention and light cleaning.

At a recent job at Assumption Cemetery, off Court Street on the North Side of Syracuse, O’Boyle arrived at mid-day and got to work. He starts by pulling a couple brushes out of his toolkit and using them to gently remove the mold and lichens that have taken up residence on a gravestone.

“The motto of anyone cleaning headstones is ‘do no harm,’” he explained. That means not using bleach, which is strong and can cause more harm than good to gravestones. He extends the hose from a 15-gallon water tank in the back of his vehicle and gives the headstone a thorough rinsing.

The task at hand requires little in the way of products and tools. O’Boyle sprays a proprietary, eco-friendly solution on the gravestone and pulls out a couple wooden tongue depressors, which he uses to gently remove dirt build-up in the crevices of the lettering on the stone. After the solution has been on there for a few minutes, he pulls out a passel of brushes and gives the headstone a good scrubbing. “You don’t want to use a mechanical brush,’’ he said. “A lot of this work is elbow grease.’’

Next, he rinses the stone and sprays on a cleaning solution similar to dish soap — pleasant smelling and not very strong. He lets the solution rest for a few minutes, then goes to work with a brush so the stone becomes soapy. He gives the stone a rinse and waits until it has dried some before determining if he should repeat the cleaning process.

“It’s a lot of scrubbing and a lot of time waiting for the stuff to work,’’ O’Boyle said. “It’s part of the process. You’re spraying, you’re waiting, then you’re scrubbing and scrubbing. It’s mainly scrubbing.’’

Even relatively new gravestones and crypts need care, O’Boyle said, because the environment has an impact on them. Pollen from trees and plants, tree sap, air pollution, road grime and salt in the air all take their toll and cause damage. “All of those things start to work away at a stone,’’ O’Boyle added.

Sometimes, well-intentioned family members try to restore a stone’s luster with bleach or paint a stone to camouflage signs of wear. Bleach can cause internal damage and disintegration over time and paint will chip and damage the stone underneath, O’Boyle explained.

Some jobs are bigger and more challenging than others and might require a ladder to reach the carved figures at the top of a crypt, for example.

Pauline Tucci, of Syracuse, a retired nurse, met O’Boyle through his wife (she owns Metro Home Style, a boutique in Syracuse) and hired him to clean the gravestones of her maternal and paternal grandparents, who are buried within a few feet of each other at Assumption Cemetery. She cleaned the stones herself more than a decade ago but decided to consult O’Boyle and have him clean them up.

“I was impressed,’’ Tucci said. “I was building up the strength to clean the stones myself but it’s quite a job. Tim is easy to talk to and he explained everything very thoroughly.’’

That’s the kind of favorable review O’Boyle hopes to hear after each job.

“I feel honored to perform this work,’’ he said. “I can help a family member do something they couldn’t do. It’s a good feeling.’’

For more information on With All Respect Due LLC, go to