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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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Memorial Day recalls price paid by one soldier

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................May 29, 2012

Our family has a long-standing tradition of visiting the cemeteries where our loved ones and ancestors are interred, which include three cemeteries in DeKalb County.

In earlier times, fresh cut flowers were placed at the grave sites. Now artificial arrangements are more the trend, plus potted plants on shepherd hooks.

I had occasion to visit the North Clinton Cemetery near Waterman earlier this month and took time to walk among rows of grave markers with familiar names going back generations.

Taking part in Memorial Day observances used to be more of a social occasion, where Girl Scouts brought flowers, Boy Scouts put small flags on veterans’ graves, and uniformed veterans of past wars paraded through the grounds followed by a speaker, concluding with a 21-gun salute and bugler playing taps.

We would see old friends, distant relatives and schoolmates at the same time. But that was more than a half century ago.

Now in many communities, Memorial Day services often are held in parks. If they do take place at the cemetery, the crowd is often sparse. I miss the opportunity to renew old acquaintances and catch up on family news about those who have moved away.

During my recent visit, I paused at the grave of Mark Simpson, a decorated World War I soldier. He came home from that war at age 26, debilitated from the effects of mustard gas poisoning. He was

The tombstone of Cpl. Mark Simpson of Company A, 129th Infantry, 33rd Division of the U.S. Army is seen in this photo at North Clinton Cemetery near Waterman. (This is an old photo so the date of death for his wife Harriett had not yet been engraved on the marker.)

Cpl. Simpson in uniform about 1917.


later given the position of Waterman postmaster but his wife, Harriett (Stryker) Simpson (later Parks), had to fill in for him because of poor health. He died in Hines VA Hospital many years later from the effects of that poison gas.

I know all this because they were my aunt and uncle.

Before her death, Aunt Harriett entrusted me with a box of his medals, among them the Purple Heart and two French medals for fighting in battles at Verdun and Meuse-Argonne. But there are a hundred other stories like this that can be found in just this one cemetery.

After noting several other names on tombstones, I wondered what happened to childhood acquaintances of my parents’ friends, such as Tommy and Bernice Hayes, Bill and Cass Swanson, the Hipples, the Mercers and the Marshall Schultzes.

One way of gathering local history is a “cemetery walk” that is conducted by historians, genealogists or cemetery officials. I have learned a lot from such guided tours at Somonauk, Sycamore and DeKalb in the past few years. Wouldn’t it be nice if the other cemetery associations or historical societies planned such events? An ideal time would be Memorial Day weekend when people are already planning trips to their family grave sites.

Too bad there aren’t guest registers at each cemetery where visitors can sign in and leave their email or postal address. Contacting people to inform them of such walks would be easier, but that would require some volunteer time and a method of keeping the logbooks secure and safe from the weather.

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The columnist can be reached via email at :

barry815sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115