After years of working alone, David Goodman is getting some help.
The county resident has spent the last four years cleaning and maintaining the Calabasas Cemetery, a roughly 2.5-acre Rio Rico property with graves dating to the 19th and 20th centuries.
About five months ago, he reached out to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors and State Sen. Andrea Dalessandro, and also posted on Facebook looking for volunteers to help out. But he didn’t get much traction.
That changed when the NI published a story about his efforts last month – “Cemetery upkeep is lonely mission for Rio Rico man,” Sept. 24 – and listed Goodman’s contact information.
“After the newspaper put my email on there, people started contacting me left and right,” he said on Monday.
Goodman said about 25 people reached out to him after the article and 12 or 13 ultimately came out to help with the work.
The county stepped up as well – they’ve sent a crew of probationers to help out for the past two weeks.
The cemetery, which is wedged between produce warehouses next to Interstate 19, had fallen into disrepair when Goodman started cleaning it up.
His mission, he said, is not just to haul off the accumulated mess, but also to mark grave sites that have been damaged or become overgrown.
The volunteers mainly pick up garbage, trim trees, rake, remove brush and move stones. That frees Goodman up to look carefully for signs of grave locations, which he marks with rocks.
Most of the helpers are from Rio Rico and Nogales, but Goodman said he also has had volunteers come from Tucson, Sahuarita and Sierra Vista.
They’ve been getting together to work on Saturday mornings for the past few weeks.
“I got a nice little group that’s the same people showing up, so I know that they’re committed,” Goodman said.
With more hands, work has moved quickly.
Goodman estimated that he had cleaned up about 30 percent of the cemetery after several years of working alone. In the last few weeks, he said, the group has finished another 20 percent or more.
Now, he’s trying to make sure the pace doesn’t pick up too much.
“I don’t want it to go too fast, because I want to make sure that I mark as many graves as possible,” he said. “If it goes too fast they’re going to rake away the evidence.”