ASHVILLE - Gone, but not forgotten.
Recently, Ashville Troop 141 continued an annual tradition by visiting Maple Grove Cemetery on a sunny, spring afternoon to replace old and worn out crosses and American flags on the graves of American veterans.
"We've been doing this for three years now," said Randy Rickerson, scoutmaster for the troop. "Nancy (Thomas) asked us if we could help her out, and we asked the kids if it would be something they were interested in doing. We really do our best to let the kids run the troop, and they were very excited to do whatever they could for the cemetery.
Ashville Boy Scout Troop 141 recently helped to replace old and damaged flags and crosses on veterans’ graves in Maple Grove Cemetery.
According to Thomas, Maple Grove Cemetery keeps the remains of veterans from most American conflicts, and even has several veterans who served in World War I, the American Civil War, and the American Revolutionary War. Since many of the veterans in Maple Grove Cemetery don't have family or relatives left in the area that know about them, their grave sites tend to become dilapidated from lack of attention. Thomas and the boys of troop 141 have taken it upon themselves to make sure the veterans' graves receive the care and attention they believe they deserve.
"A lot of the crosses here were in terrible shape," said Rickerson. "They were rusted and ignored, so I asked Hope's Windows if they wouldn't mind helping us out, and (the store) said yes without any hesitation. They made us 100 crosses over the past two years, and refurbished the worn-out ones back to a respectable condition. They powder coated them and painted them, and they look really nice."
Rickerson said that while the boys of the troop enjoy maintaining the veterans' graves, a few have really taken to the project because they've accidentally found their own relatives buried in the cemetery who served during life.
"It's amazing to watch them find their relatives that they didn't know were here," said Rickerson. "Some will even find their last names on a grave and ask their parents about it later that night, and it'll turn out that it's an uncle or a second or third cousin that the scout didn't even know about. It makes them very proud to decorate those graves with a flag."
Many of the scouts have earned merit badges which required an understanding of local history, and that base knowledge has made them enjoy caring for veterans' graves even more.
"It's cool walking through here and seeing all the people who have served," said scout Brian Radka. "Personally it's very inspiring, and helping to maintain the veterans' graves is personally rewarding."
The leaders and scouts of troop 141 were liberal in praising Thomas, the North Harmony town clerk, for her involvement with the project, as she had been replacing flags and working to maintain the graves before the troop stepped in to help three years ago.
"It used to be that (Thomas) would come here and spend a whole weekend finding the graves of the veterans and replacing the flags on their graves," said Rickerson. "Now the troop is helping her out, and we can usually cover the whole cemetery in less than three hours."
Thomas provided refreshments and doughnuts for the scouts, and was on location to help out.
NORTH HARMONY MEMORIAL DAY NOTICE
The town of North Harmony will host a Memorial Day service on Sunday at Veterans' Park, located at the corners of Fardink and North Maple streets in Ashville at 1:30 p.m. Guest speaker Jessica Norris will give an address entitled, "What will you do with your freedom?"
Additionally, the town of North Harmony offices will be closed Friday-Monday for Memorial Day. The offices will reopen Tuesday.