The Seneca County Cemetery will have a new look by the end of the summer, thanks to Travis Gase.
Gase, from Boy Scout Troop 444, chose to rehabilitate the Seneca County Cemetery as his Eagle Scout service project. The cemetery serviced the county home and contains graves dating back to the late 1800s. Nearly all the gravestones are crooked or have fallen down.
Gase found the opportunity through Brad Borer and Tom Breidenbach. When Gase found out about the state of the cemetery, he began working on the project.
PHOTO BY BRITTANY COOK
Travis Gase works with a form he will use to reset markers at the Seneca County Cemetery. Gase is performing the work to fulfill the service project requirement to become an Eagle Scout.
"A cemetery shouldn't fall into this much disrepair," he said. "They don't deserve this. They were people of the community."
Gase began the project about a year and a half ago and the work is almost complete. Looking at it now, both Gase and Troop Leader Mike Longebach realized the amount of work that had to go into it.
"This far exceeds what an Eagle project needs to be," said Longebach.
When Gase was at Boy Scout camp, he told one of the staff members about the project.
"They said it was about four times (the size) of the project that it should have been," said Gase.
Longebach said that all Eagle Scout projects are big, but this one is the biggest the troop had taken on.
"It was a little bit overwhelming, but since we're this far into it, I can't get too overwhelmed," Gase said.
Borer has helped with the project by designing the forms to straighten each gravestone. To fix the stones, they will take each stone out of the ground, fill the hole with cement, then replace the stone in the cement. Gase and volunteers will then put the forms on each stone, lining them up and connecting them with two by fours through each row and column. Once they start the process, they are going to try to do three or four rows a day.
The entire troop is involved due to the size, including adult leaders. Tim Welly from Welly's Monuments has also gotten involved with fixing the gravestones.
Gase has been raising the funds since he started the project and recently appealed to the Seneca County commissioners for the remainder of what he needed to complete the project. He already had raised $2,500 in donations to pay for lumber, concrete and other expenses. The board gave him a $4,500 recycling grant through the Seneca County Recycling Program and all unused funds are to be returned to the county at the end of the project.
"(Commissioner) Fred Zoeller did more research for us helped us out that way," said Longebach.
Because of the grant, Gase can purchase the concrete needed to finish the project and complete it before he starts his senior year of high school.
"It's really exciting," said Gase. "If it wasn't for that grant, we would have to raise more money."
Other projects the troop has finished include landscaping at the Ohio Civil War Museum of America, the greenhouse dedication at St. Francis and the power house renovation at St. Joseph Catholic Church. The troop is to work with AMVETS on its next project.
Besides the goal of fixing the cemetery, Gase said he's learned about time management, finances and public speaking.
He said he hopes this project will influence other Boy Scouts to take on larger projects.
Longebach supported the size of the project.
"It will help other Scouts, too, to show them that Eagle Scout projects are achievable," he said. "We want them to be challenging because these kids learn so much from them."
Gase hoped that other Boy Scouts could look on the rehabilitation of the cemetery as inspiration for their Eagle Scout service project.
"I feel that me taking a challenging project like this it'll be like, no project is too big," he said. "(They) can't look at a project and say 'That's too hard,'because I'll say, 'Well, mine looked too hard, too.' "