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Oakwood veteran identification project

Thu, May 9th 2019 01:50 pm

By Pete Ames

Town of Niagara Historian

This project started almost 10 years ago when I asked the people from the American Legion if they had a list to go by when they place the flags on the graves of veterans. They said that they did not have a list, but they would love one. As of April 28, I have a tentative list of vets buried at Oakwood Cemetery who may not have either a marker of any kind or a private marker with no military designation on it.

So, Dorothy Rolling and I started to gather info on the veterans. Then, in 2010, John Goodnick asked if he could make a list as a project to become Eagle Scout. “Sure,” we said. So he spent a couple of days walking the cemetery and noting the names of whoever had a military marker, or a private marker that indicated service in the military. From that list of over 600, Dorothy and Maureen Trimmer came up with another potential 400, bringing the list to over 1,000. That group of names was put in to an Excel file, which was then turned over to Michelle Kratts and her group of volunteers at the Lewiston Public Library, called the Deadbeats. Jeffrey Manning created a brand-new database, made up worksheets, and got the deadbeats going. Their task, which took well over 1,000 hours of research, pared the list down to 800 persons that served in the military and were buried at Oakwood. They started in May of 2017 and finished in October of 2018. Kudos to the Deadbeats and Jeff Manning.

From that list of 800, I eliminated the people who appeared on both the Goodnick headstone reading and the list from the Deadbeats. Consequently, I ended up with 294 people who may not have either any marker at all, a military marker, or a military designation on a private marker. I created a list of those men and women and the location of their gravesites. The next step is to look for their burial spot and determine what kind of marker or medallion is needed. Once those are found and noted, applications must be filled out and mailed in with supporting documentation to the government agency. Once a medallion or marker has been received, then they can be placed, and the process is complete. The medallions are made of brass, and the U.S. government foots the bill for those. We just have to epoxy them to the marker. If they require an actual marker, we will put them in place as well. 

Our sincere thanks goes to the Grigg Lewis Foundation for their financial support, which covers the associated printing and mailing costs for the applications and required documentation. 

If anyone has a family member who is a veteran buried at Oakwood, I would appreciate it if you would please contact me. I need your permission to affix a medallion to the headstone, but it is difficult and time consuming to locate surviving family members. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or by phone at 716-297-4429. 

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