Spencer Bramell was searching for a meaningful Eagle project to complete his Boy Scout experience.
Providently, East Union Memorial Cemetery is a place brimming with opportunities for service. So when Spencer’s mother, Brandee Bramell, reminded him of the needs she had heard about at the cemetery, he called EUMC right away.
Meanwhile, the ladies who work on finding old records, categorizing them, and mapping the markers of those interred at EUMC noticed that a lot of babies, small children, and even some veterans had no visible headstones. Last year Janet Fiore, EUMC Secretary, started an “Adopt-A-Marker” campaign, got a local monument company to give them a deal on small markers, and began appealing to the community to give these souls the recognition they lacked.
A more thorough search of every record was then begun, and completed just a few weeks ago. There were now 64 children on the list, but volunteers were suspicious of one name — a marker had been recorded for that baby during a different Eagle Scout project in 2003. After probing the ground and digging through the tough Bermuda grass, a marker was found, completely buried. They realized that each of the remaining 63 baby grave sites, as well as the 20-plus veterans without headstones, would need to be searched to determine if a marker already existed — an overwhelming task.
Days later, Spencer called one of the board members, and suddenly the complementary needs of both the Eagle Scout candidate and EUMC looked solvable with one project. After forms were filled out and preliminary work was completed, Spencer assembled his crew and started looking for markers. This was very much like looking for a needle in a haystack, as they carefully probed through the tough grass in grid patterns at each grave.
“They were looking for markers that may never have existed, or that had been made of wood and deteriorated over time,” said Janice Zacharias, EUMC President.
After 9 long hours, having found not a single marker or headstone, Spencer and his remaining crew approached the very last grave — but this time they felt the clink of concrete. After 1/2 hour of carefully removing grass, weeds, and dirt, the small lawn crypt and curbing was uncovered, complete with the initials of the baby who was interred, Helen Reta Mayberry.
“We were pretty discouraged not to have found anything all day, but finding this little girl’s hidden resting place just as the sun was setting made it all worth it,” said Spencer.
Now the Eagle project can be finished, the Adopt-A-Marker drive can continue, and the cemetery volunteers have a request of the community.
“We would like people to read over the names of the veterans listed below, as we can get a free military headstone for them if we can get a relative to come in and sign the needed form,” said board member Janet Fiore. “We would really appreciate a call at (209) 823-8533, or (209) 275-0265 if anyone knows any of these veterans, as we would love to acknowledge their military service.”
Veterans interred at EUMC who do not have a marker are: Frank Abersold; Norman F. Bauer; Otis Baxter; Kenneth Beer; Randy Scott Brown; Leo R. Bragg; Claude Cater; Gerald Emerson Chastain; Chester F. Denning; Milford H. Elwood; Harry P. Ernst; Willard R. Foland Jr.; E. T. Higgins; George T. Kennedy; George W. Monroe; Thomas E. Moore; David Pagan; Anthony Leandro Rapier; Raymond L. Smith; Robert C. Vasquez; R. W. Webb; and J. K. Wells.