Preserving the pastWhen Jeremy Oaks finished his Eagle Scout project last year, the Superior teen had leftover materials.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
When Jeremy Oaks finished his Eagle Scout project last year, the Superior teen had leftover materials.
So last weekend, with the help of a few friends, he set out to keep them from going to waste.
The Eagle Scout headed to Greenwood Cemetery on Saturday with a few volunteers and set out to clean monuments in Soldier’s Circle after a couple months of planning.
Terri Hammerbeck of Greenwood Cemetery said they were contacted by Oaks a couple of months ago to give the board time to discuss the proposed project, which included cleaning mosses, lichen and fungus from the marble stones in the section of the cemetery where veterans are laid to rest.
“Because the stones are marble, and they’re soft, they are concerned nothing is brushed too hard and the inscriptions softened and you can’t read it,” Hammerbeck said. After all, the wrong chemicals could damage the stones, she said.
Oaks said while modern monuments would require the permission of families, the older stones they were working on Saturday were for people with no known descendants so he sought permission from the board.
But Oaks did his homework last year when his Eagle Scout project included cleaning 87 monuments and resetting 85 of them.
Then, he found a biocide, which is non-toxic to mammals and biodegradable, but capable of killing algae, lichen, fungus and bacteria.
But the biocide wasn’t cheap. At $32 a gallon, Oaks set his sights on fundraising to achieve his Eagle Scout project in St. Francis Cemetery last year.
“We had some left over material, so we looked for another service project,” Oaks said. He said he decided to focus on veterans monuments because his mother, Ellen Oaks, works in the Douglas County Veterans Service Office.
Among Ellen Oaks responsibilities is documenting where local veterans are laid to rest after they pass away.
And with the help of about a half-dozen volunteers Jeremy Oaks set out Saturday to clean the monuments that mark some of their graves.
Using soft-bristled brushes and soft plastic scrapers, volunteers got to work applying the biocide and brushing off the lichen and moss that has grown on the stones over the years.
“Jeremy’s Eagle Scout project started it, and we decided to come out here with the extra materials,” said Stephen Hauser as he worked on a monument for Arthur L. Cleveland, a World War II Army veteran who died at age 36, after the war.
“I live just down the road,” Hauser said. “Driving by here, they look like they do now, and I thought it would be nice to clean them up.”
Volunteers worked their way around the circle of stones.
“I really wanted to help out,” said Jonathan Stumpf, who admitted his parents had to get him out of bed to help out. “Once I came out here, I was thinking it was a good thing I came out.”
And projects like this are important to the community, Stumpf said.
“Otherwise the stones would get all dirty and you wouldn’t be able to read a word on them,” he said as he worked on the monument for Pvt. Milton Ledin, who lived to the age of 59 after serving in World War II. “You’re kind of helping people remember veterans.”
Stumpf’s great-grandfather on his mother’s side of the family also fought in World War II.
“It’s difficult for all cemeteries in the area,” Hammerbeck said of having the resources to maintain so many monuments. “It’s not like they’re floating in cash. And most times monuments don’t get cleaned unless it’s requested because there’s just too many to keep up. This is really special they’re doing this. We really appreciate it … We’re really thankful.”