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Historical Rejuvenation

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The neglected headstones of local Civil War veterans have been reset and cleaned by a group of Boy Scouts helping one of their members earn his Eagle Scout designation.

Roncalli High School sophomore Andrew York has known for years that he wanted to achieve the top rank in scouting. Each Eagle Scout candidate is responsible for putting together a service project that reflects their interests and that serves the good of the community.

After learning that the Civil War section at Greenwood Cemetery was desperate for upkeep, York thought it might be a good project.

“It turned out to be a really good idea,” York said.

The project taught him a lot and made him feel as though he’s helping ensure that the legacy of the soldiers continues for future generations, York said.

“I’d say hard work definitely pays off, especially with this project,” he said. “When we finished it, we thought it was better than we thought it was going to be.”

He led a group of more than 50 people, including members of Boy Scout troop No. 245 to take care of the veterans’ headstones. York also enlisted the help of a history expert who restores old cemeteries, who helped guide them in the stone restoration. Greenwood firefighters also helped, volunteering their ladder truck to help paint a flag pole.

Some of the 27 graves date back to the age of the cemetery, which opened in 1884, when families of the soldiers had their loved ones re-interned at Greenwood Cemetery. While some of the soldiers buried there were killed in the Civil War, others were veterans who died in the later part of the 19th or early 20th century.

Many of the old sandstone headstones were sunk low into the ground. Each needed to be properly washed and re-set with pea gravel and sand underneath. The group used a chemical called Biowash to clean the headstones of built up moss and organic matter. With the chemical treatment, the stones are re-washed every time it rains.

York also led his group through the process of creating a stone wall around the area to preserve the perimeter and also added a bronze plaque to commemorate the veterans and their service.

The project took a few weekends to complete.

“When it was finished, I felt great. It looks a heck of a lot better than it did when we found it,” York said. “Every time I’ve been over there, it keeps looking better and better. Some of those stones hadn’t been touched in a long time.”

To purchase materials, York raised about $1,500, which included donations from cemetery board members, family and friends.

John Armes, superintendent of Greenwood Cemetery, said the cemetery staff doesn’t normally have the tools and materials necessary to maintain the upkeep of the graves.

“It was a great help,” he said. “They did all that work in that area (of the cemetery). They definitely did a good job.”

York will finish the project requirements later this summer, Scout Master Gary Cavanaugh said. Cavanaugh said the project was a great one for York because it tapped into York’s love of history.

York will put together a binder that contains a full report of the project, including the cost, materials, names of volunteers who helped him, the hours everyone spent working and a detailed account of what he learned.

A panel of scout masters will review the information and talk to York about his leadership experience before they let him know whether he’s officially moved into the rank.

York has participated in scouting since he was in first grade and knew he wanted to be an Eagle Scout someday. He said he appreciates all the friends he’s made over the years, as well as the mentoring from the adults in scouting, he said.

York’s service project is a good example of how scouting helps young men mature through service and hard work, Cavanaugh said.

“The diversity in scouting allows boys to choose their own paths and plug into their own interests,” he said.

The Eagle Scout advisers can offer scouts guidance on their projects, but they won’t tell them exactly how to do it.

Its up to the scouts to determine how the project is executed.

“They learn a tremendous amount — and they learn by doing,” he said.

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