Anthony Gennarino goes on a lot of walks.
And that's what he was doing with a friend one night this summer when, while cutting through the cluster of cemeteries behind his house on S. Eighth Street in Altoona, he saw an unusual site.
A man toting a toddler was also in the graveyard, working to turn toppled headstones upright.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Anthony Gennarino, 14, of Altoona, walks through Oak Ridge Cemetery in Altoona.
"He was struggling with one, so we went by and we helped him," Anthony, 14, said. "He said 'I've been doing this for about 10 to 20 years.'"
Anthony and his friend were shocked, and as they walked away after helping the man, Anthony recalls hearing him talking to the small child, saying "we can't pick them all up, but we'll try."
Since that night, Anthony's walks turned into trying to do just that. The teenager spent his summer doing what this man gave him the idea to do - the man Anthony said he does not know and hasn't seen in the graveyard since.
"I remember when he came home and was telling us about it," said Anthony's mother, Lavinia. "He said he thought it was pretty cool that there were still decent people."
There certainly are; Anthony is also one of them. Picking up litter, holding doors and sticking up for the smaller kids in school, the do-gooder started "walking" out into the cemetery almost every day for about five weeks, Lavinia said. Anthony estimates he's fixed about 100 headstones.
"It was definitely a very active summer for me," Anthony added.
Picking up the heavy stones would be a strenuous task even for a grown man. But Anthony didn't let his age stop him, or the fact that he was born with a club foot and will have to wear a brace for the rest of his life.
"When he was born with it, the doctors told him he probably wouldn't do the same things other kids do," Lavinia said, including running or walking very well. "But that's never slowed him down."
Lavinia said she hasn't been worried about Anthony getting hurt because he knows his limitations.
Anne Macklin, administrator at Calvary cemetery, which oversees the upkeep of one of the cemeteries Anthony worked in, does not condone anyone try to manually reset a monument. She said Calvary uses machinery for that type of upkeep, she added, and sends in a ground cleaning crew once a week.
However, she did commend Anthony for taking it upon himself to help so many families.
"I think it's admirable that this young man has the care and concern beyond his own," she said. "It's unusual and very admirable that he [was] thinking beyond his own summertime pleasures."
Despite this, Anthony has a very simple reason for turning this into a hobby this summer.
"It was just the right thing to do," he said. "A lot of teenagers, you hear bad things about them, and I've seen it. ... I wasn't really thinking about that at the time, but as I kept doing it, I just felt really good with myself for doing it and I thought maybe it would set into other people's minds."
Michelle Stotler, whose son, Billy, is a friend of Anthony's and helped him once in the graveyard, said Anthony is definitely the type of kid she could see taking on such a task. She added both Billy and Anthony run in a crowd that seem to be very "considerate of other people's feelings."
"They're just both very good kids. When I see some of their friends going the other way, I thank God they are the way they are," she said.
Anthony said he's never been one to do something or put someone down to get a laugh from his buddies. Instead, he's trying to organize a group of friends to work in the graveyards together some time soon.
"We must've done something right," Lavinia said with a smile.
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946- 7520.