When Julie Marsella and her husband Tony lost their jobs in the fall of 2011, bouncing back with a business of sorts that had grown from "personal interest" was a no-brainer.
It was not uncommon for one or both of the Marsellas to frequent cemeteries in Springfield, Bensalem, Warminster or Warrington to pay tribute to their loved ones at their final resting places.
But, getting the Marsellas' Beloved Guardians off the ground has proven to be a bit challenging. The beneficiaries of the couple's work can not thank them, recommend their services, or book them for additional work.
"You don’t want to be an ambulance chaser," Julie Marsella said.
Tony Marsella, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who had worked in sales for 20 years prior to losing his job, said he's done "mass mailings" to funeral homes and cemeteries in Montgomery and Bucks counties in hopes of drumming up business for the services the couple provide.
Yet, more than a year after Beloved Guardians began, Julie Marsella said about 15 clients have sought help honoring their loved ones. The Marsellas offer a variety of services including clearing weeds from grave sites, cleaning tombstones, laying grass seed and placing special tributes or mementos at the final resting places in honor of holidays, birthdays, or other special occasions.
"This isn't a bad business," said Julie Marsella, who has since found full-time work, but is still hopeful her side job could be something that she and her husband can one day franchise. "If it gets up and running."
Tony Marsella, who is still seeking work, said he enjoys helping people and he and his wife's business is the perfect complement.
"I love doing it," he said during a recent visit to Hatboro Cemetery. "We had started it as a side job because we liked doing it. We liked helping people."
Between the two of them, Julie Marsella said they have "enough family members throughout different cemeteries" to warrant plenty of visits anyway. Natural requests began trickling in to drop off flowers, or other tributes, she said.
"One more person kept adding on, adding on, adding on," she said. Suddenly, the light bulb went off and she decided to turn the couple's personal interest into a business.
During a recent grave site visit, Julie Marsella shared how she used a toothbrush to scrub out the name on a headstone that had been inundated by pine needles from an adjacent tree.
"I know that her parents are coming to see her next week. This way the headstone will be in good condition," she said. "It’s not really morbid because you’re taking something that’s in disarray or something that could be forgotten and you’re remembering the life of this person and you’re paying tribute to them."