CRAB ORCHARD — Many old military buddies get together for golf outings, but when Danny Godbey and Richard P'Pool hang out, they spend their time in a graveyard instead.
"Well, we don't have have greens fees," P'Pool said.
All last week, Godbey, a deacon at Crab Orchard Baptist, and his friend P'Pool, from western Kentucky, were busy in the church's cemetery, excavating centuries-old gravestones, repairing them and replacing them upright.
The Crab Orchard Baptist Cemetery has graves from as early as the 1790s and as late as the 1930s. Over the decades, tombstones have fallen over, broken apart and sunk into the ground, leaving many stone pieces scattered across the land.
"It's a huge jigsaw puzzle scattered over an acre," Godbey said.
P'Pool has made quite a hobby for himself restoring and upgrading graves. One of his passions is marking the graves of military veterans. He estimates he has helped mark approximately 330 or more graves of U.S. veterans from all different wars, from the Civil War on.
His connection to Godbey — they both served in the White House Communications Agency at Camp David during the terms of U.S. presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford — is how he came to restore graves in Crab Orchard.
Godbey said P'Pool has visited Crab Orchard in previous years as well to help reclaim the dilapidated cemetery.
"Most of the stones you see upright, Richard had to work on," he said.
The two work together to piece broken tombstones back together, place them appropriately and level them so they stand straight. P'Pool uses a two-part epoxy that bonds broken stones back together.
He used to buy his own epoxy, but now receives it by the case for free from a man who was grateful when P'Pool restored a grave of one of his ancestors. The man just happened to work for Adhesive Technologies, a St. Louis-based concrete anchoring epoxy company.
"Their biggest customer is the Army Corps of Engineers, so it's good stuff," he said.
Godbey, a retired Lincoln County schools superintendent, said he got involved in restoring the cemetery when P'Pool pushed him to do it. P'Pool's love of the job is why he helps out.
"I walked past them for 30 years and didn't pay much attention to them," he said of the tombstones behind his church.
P'Pool and Godbey have unearthed and restored dozens of graves in the cemetery, and this time around they said they were finding many graves from Egbert and Curtis families.
One tombstone requiring a lot of work — it had broken into 10 pieces and was completely underground — was for Anderville M. Egbert, born Nov. 10 1831, died Aug. 19, 1891.
Other restored graves in the cemetery include at least a pair of Civil War soldiers from the Union side.
P'Pool and Godbey said they try to raise awareness about the dangers of letting children play or otherwise mess around inside cemeteries.
They pointed to a pair of incidents — one in North Carolina and one in Colorado — within the past couple months, where small children were killed when parts of tombstones fell and crushed them.
In North Carolina in June, a 1,200-pound cross fell on a 4-year-old girl while she played in a cemetery before a Bible study, according Charlotte-based WSOC-TV.
In Colorado in July, a 6-foot tombstone fell on top of a 4-year-old boy while he was attempting to make other people smile for a photo his father was taking, the Denver Post reported.
P'Pool says he knows of other similar incidents in Kentucky that have happened over the years. Both men encouraged adults to be more aware of the dangers and make sure their children respect cemeteries and stay safe.