Paying respect, one stone at a timeBy the time he stopped to talk, George Scheidt had already lifted 2,520 pounds. Not all at once, of course. He did it one tombstone at a time.
By: Monica Isley, Lake County News Chronicle
By the time he stopped to talk, George Scheidt had already lifted 2,520 pounds.
Not all at once, of course. He did it one tombstone at a time.
Scheidt is the Lake County veterans service officer, but his job doesn’t include cemetery duty. It’s something he chooses to do out of love for the military people he serves, even the faceless ones he’s never met.
“I do it because someone has to,” he said on Wednesday, leaning on a shovel as the perspiration dripped down his face, even in the cool breezes off Lake Superior. “So many have no families left, or those who are left never knew them. But I can’t forget them. This is my way to show respect.”
Every year before Memorial Day, and here and there during the rest of the year, Scheidt visits the veterans section of the cemetery to cut back the encroaching sod, and lift the sinking stones. Each one weighs about 140 pounds.
On Wednesday afternoon, he had finished 18 of them and planned to do six or eight more, then come back Thursday and Friday. He cuts the sod away, uses a pry bar to flip up the stone, adds pea gravel from a nearby wheel barrow, puts the stone back down, and arranges the sod around it again.
Scheidt has been doing this every year since he became the service officer in 2004. He said that as he works, he’s eager to see whose name will appear on the nearly obscured stones, and he often looks them up in the records back at the office to find out who they were.
“Each stone is a story and a family,” he said.
Last year, he and Vince Sando, the current vice-commander of the VFW in Two Harbors, straightened all the old, upright, white veterans stones, including a few that were pre-WWI. And, just like the newer stones, they all get flags on the Friday before Memorial Day.
“If we know about them, they’ll get a flag,” said Sando, who had just showed up at the cemetery. He, along with a combined group of VFW/American Legion volunteers, places as many flags as they can find tombstones to go with them. They are taken down when the holiday is over and preserved for the next year.
Scheidt tends to the flags on the pole--one U.S. flag, one POW/MIA. There will be two new ones up for Memorial Day, but the flags are actually changed out six times a year.
“The wind out here beats them to death,” Scheidt said, glancing up at the most recent set, their frayed edges flapping in the wind.
He picked up a shovel and moved to the next stone in a long line of stones. As he scraped the grass away, a name emerged: Dennis Magnuson, died in 1957, aged 34 years.
“He was young,” Scheidt said, pausing as if for a moment of silence. Then he attacked the sod around the edges, bringing to light one more life once lived in service to country.