Civil War tombstones get a bargain update

Sandy Komisarek and Bill Tunison, cemetery co-sextons, visit the grave of John Pelkey, a civil war veteran, in Springfield Township Cemetery.
Sandy Komisarek and Bill Tunison, cemetery co-sextons, visit the grave of John Pelkey, a civil war veteran, in Springfield Township Cemetery.

The tombstones of Civil War veterans at the Springfield Township Cemetery have been worn to the point at which many can t be read. Some are simply gone, leaving only the outline of a foundation.

Township trustees recently voted to remedy the situation after learning that Sandy Komisarek, the cemetery s co-sexton, identified the gravesite of each veteran and made contact with a veteran s organization that will provide new markers free.

Ms. Komisarek said she had become concerned with the state of some of the older markers in the Airport Highway cemetery and had learned that the headstones of Civil War veterans can be replaced by the federal government if the burial sites can be verified. “I saw it as a shining opportunity to help preserve history in our cemetery, Ms. Komisarek said.

She obtained a list of Civil War veterans believed buried there and then set out to identify the burial plots. Some of the markers are in reasonable condition, particularly those that are part of a family plot. But the upright markers, commonly used at the time the veterans were buried, are in bad shape.

Ms. Komisarek identified 22 markers that needed to be replaced. Some veterans names were easily identified, she said, but for others she had to use rubbings or take digital photos and then manipulate them through a computer system to bring out the faint indentations that revealed the names.

Using the list of veterans buried, her on-sight inspection, and the township s burial books, Ms. Komisarek identified the resting place of each of the Civil War veterans. She said the more research she completed, the more passionate she became about replacing the eroded and tilted markers.

“When you think about it, these people went to war and if they hadn t, if the North had lost, it s hard to know what kind of country we d be living in. The survival of the United States rested on the shoulders of our Union veterans, Ms. Komisarek said.

She will order smaller bronze markers that will be placed at the grave sites of other veterans whose original headstones are in good shape. Missing information, such as dates of birth and death, will be filled in.

Ms. Komisarek is pleased with the results of her work.

“There are a lot of things we d like to do in the cemetery, but this seemed like a good way to quickly improve the overall appearance and give the veterans the recognition they deserve, she said.

After the new headstones arrive, they will be stored in the township garage until spring, when new foundations can be poured.

“We d like to put some kind of ceremony together when we replace the stones, she said.

Ms. Komisarek said she hopes to locate relatives of the veterans buried in the cemetery. The old headstones will be offered to any family members, she said.