A Templeton genealogist's passion for DNA testing took her from matching adoptees with their birth families to maintaining graves across San Luis Obispo County.
Lisa Robinson is an adoptee herself whose mother passed away almost 21 years ago and is buried in a San Fernando Valley cemetery.
"I've always relied on family and friends to go on her birthday and on Mother's Day to put flowers down there," she said.
Counting on well-wishers gave her the idea to start a plot upkeep and gravesite flower delivery business with her husband, Loshel Robinson. The result was Robinson's Grave Care Services.
- Courtesy Photo Of Lisa Robinson
- CLEANING WITH MEANING Loshel and Lisa Robinson have been maintaining graves since July; but they've been together for 11 years and married since 2015.
"We're both known to just go to different cemeteries, and we just love visiting them and learning about people from the area," Lisa said.
Working in genealogy since 2007 armed Lisa with a robust researching skill set. She identified a large gap in the SLO County market for gravesite cleaning and flower delivery. Over the summer of 2021, the Robinsons poured over books, articles, and YouTube videos on grave care. Their friends and family also let them practice cleaning their family headstones and plots. The couple was ready for business in July and has served roughly a dozen clients so far.
The duo makes custom silk and fresh flower arrangements with flowers sourced from local stores, Amazon, and Trader Joe's.
Loshel works full time as Tin City Cider Co.'s manager, and a standing agreement with his workplace gives him enough time to maintain graves. Depending on the size and type of the grave—from a small marker to a large headstone with bronze lettering—the cleaning process can take at least an hour. The Robinsons use a cleaning chemical called D/2 that's approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
"We use water and just one other ingredient to clean [after applying D/2]. You can do some tricks to make bronze headstones look better with a little bit of car wax and buffer—that makes the letters pop. It just really depends on how long it's [the plot marker] been out there and how long it's been exposed," Loshel said.
Lisa added that special tools are often recommended to work on the lettering, especially when moss and the California sun blacken labels on limestone structures. The couple returns to the site after 10 days of cleaning to check its progress. The tool that the Robinson's found gave the best results? A toothbrush.
Sometimes, Lisa's genealogy interests and grave care commitments unite. Helping a friend find his birth father gave her an unlikely work opportunity. Though her Kansas-native friend moved with his wife from San Pedro to SLO County, Lisa found out that his birth father was from closer to home in Atascadero.
"It was so weird because his birth father's name was Michael Smith, which is the hardest name to find because it's so common," Lisa said while laughing. "So, his father's parents, ... I worked on their grave at the Atascadero Pine Mountain [Cemetery]."
The Robinsons' friends believe in their services, too. Lisa said that her friend insisted on giving them a donation to support the business. It gave Lisa the idea to add a donation button to their new website.
"Say, if somebody lives in an assisted living home [and] doesn't really have the money [to place flowers at a loved one's grave], then [the donations can be used] to make sure they get the flowers and there would be no charge for them," she said.
The couple said their business is meant to help the community. "A Beautiful Soul is Never Forgotten," the tagline on their business card reads.
"I like being there and making sure each site looks good. I just feel like what we're doing is good for our community and honoring those who were here before us," Loshel said.
Lisa likes to make the job personal.
"I like to wonder who they were: What kind of lives did they have? Were they in love? What did they do for work? Did all their dreams come true?" she said. "I get really emotional about it. I think about my own mom."
• Sensorio in Paso Robles is hosting the Bruce Munro: Light at Sensorio exhibition from through Jan. 2, 2022. The immersive light experience that celebrates the holiday season includes Munro's 15-acre Field of Light installation. For more information, visit sensoriopaso.com. Δ
Reach Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal at email@example.com.