Kim -- Gravestone (web)

Paul Field, of Effingham, looks over one of the headstones he has been revitalizing at Arborcrest Cemetery in Funkhouser.

By Kim Jansen

News Report Staff

When Paul Field runs into a fork in the road, he simply picks a direction and sees where it takes him.

All the twists and turns over his 68 years of life have brought him right back to where he started … working in a cemetery.

“When I run into a fork in the road, I just pick a direction,” said Field. “Wherever it takes me, that’s where I go. I always realize there is going to be more forks in the road, but eventually, you will get where you want to go.”

And, back to Effingham is where the road led him.

Field’s life has been filled with one adventure after another, along with a few business ventures along the way.

But now that Field has reached retirement age, he has found a new line of work in refinishing tombstones and refreshing grave sites.

Field recently opened a new business, Stone & Bronze, in Effingham. His job is to clean and revitalize headstones.

Field’s work in cemeteries began when he was 15 years old, when Lowell “Crow” Miller purchased Arborcrest Cemetery in Funkhouser.

As a boy, Field had worked for Miller in many of his other businesses doing a variety of jobs. So when Miller purchased the cemetery, Field took on new rolls, including marking graves and digging graves.

“I was born to work. I tried to retire, but I didn’t like it,” said Field. “People have wanted me to work for them since I was 5 years old. You wouldn’t believe all the hats I have worn.”

Field has worn numerous hats since leaving the Effingham area, including jobs at a gas station and at a Firestone tire factory, where he earned the money needed to attend Lake Land College.

During one stretch, Field worked a minimum of 12 hours a day, seven days a week for three months in the factory to save for tuition.

“I will never forget it because I will never do it again,” laughed Field. “You get so sick of walking into a factory. I was never fond of factory work, but you go where the money is, and you do what you got to do.”

After taking accounting courses at Lake Land College, Field enlisted in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam era and was stationed in California.

Although he had hoped for a position in accounting with the Navy, he instead found himself as an electrician.

“They had all the bean counters they needed, so they made me an electrician,” said Field.

After being honorably discharged from the Navy, Field hit another fork in the road and had to decide if he wanted to stay in California or return to his hometown.

He decided Effingham was the place where he could make something of himself.

“If you can’t make anything of yourself in your hometown, then you are probably not going to make anything of yourself anywhere,” he said.

Once he returned to Effingham, he put on a new hat and opened an electrical business for a few years, but then had the opportunity to do electrical work for the railroad.

Field retired from the railroad after 20 years of service and was ready for a new challenge.

So, he found a new hat when he purchased a sawmill from his friend, the late Ernie Ballard, of Altamont, and began making custom boards and specialty cuts of wood.

“It was good physical work, and I liked using my mind,” said Field.

But soon, something else caught his attention … computers.

In 1995, Field acquired a computer from a friend who was an information technology specialist, and he quickly became mesmerized by the machine.

“I wanted to know what they were all about,” said Field. “At first, I didn’t even know how to put it together. It might as well of been a bunch of rocks.”

But after tinkering with the machine and learning through the Internet, Field quickly learned how the computer worked and, more importantly, how to fix it.

“When something grabs me, I have to figure it out,” said Field. “I would sit there from six in the morning until midnight trying to figure it out. I got to learn about the problems, and I really got to know it.”

So with that, Field took off the hat for the sawmill business in 1998, and put on a new hat as the owner of Field Computers, which was located in the Lincoln Land Building in Effingham.

After over a decade of serving the Effingham area, Field had another twist in the road, but this time it wasn’t a decision he made.

Seven years ago, Field had a massive stroke that nearly took his life.

“The Grim Reaper had me by the throat and was squeezing,” said Field, who said he has no memory of the stroke.

After recovering from the stroke, Field decided that he still wanted to work, and he found work at a tree service company and then at a cleaning company. But soon, he learned that his older age was catching up to him in the job market.

“I have always had a job, but the older you get, the less marketable you get,” he said. “But, I am not one to sit around. It drives me nuts.”

So, Field is now on a new journey, although he hadn’t really planned to open another business.

In 2014, Field was concerned about the condition of his parents’ headstone and grave site, so he began improving their site by raising the headstone that had sunk. After that, he began researching how to clean and revitalize their headstone.

“I began researching ways to clean the stone because I didn’t want to ruin it, especially because it was my parents,” said Field. “I redid it, and man, it looked good.”

Field, who also has an interest in genealogy, quickly saw how the work he did to revive his parents’ headstone could be a marketable business, since there is not a company in Effingham or the area that offers the service.

“Almost everyone is interested in their family history,” said Field. “The past is important. As you get older, family history becomes more and more important.”

Headstones not only mark the final resting place, they also provide historical information that can be passed down to younger generations.

“Graves are a link to the past,” said Field. “It is really important to know where you come from and who your ancestors are.”

Field is confident his new business will keep him busy.

“I work off of word of mouth,” he said. “If you do your job, do it good, do it right and are trustworthy, then they will come to you.”

To contact Field to learn more about his services, email stonenbronze@gmail.com or call 217-994-4264.