Eagle Scout earns rank by making over Chestnut Ridge-area cemetery
An abandoned, 19th-century graveyard spanning Donegal and Cook townships recently received a much-needed restoration.
Kevin Krepps, 18, of Hecla completed the upgrades at Ritter Cemetery along Kelgar Road, to fulfill his Eagle Scout requirement within the Boy Scouts of America program.
Dubbed the “Extreme Cemetery Makeover”, Krepps during the past year to spruce up and neaten the burial ground.
“The project went very well,” said Krepps during a recent presentation to the Chestnut Ridge Historical Society during the group's September meeting.
From start to finish, Krepps said, the process took nine months to complete.
The restoration included repair and righting of tombstones, removal of bushes to prevent further damage to headstones, installation of a flagpole, a plaque bearing the cemetery's name and decorative fencing and planted flowers and shrubbery.
“It wouldn't have been possible without all the donations from the community. Their generosity was amazing,” Krepps said.
Many businesses and individual citizens made monetary donations, donated supplies or gave of their time to aid in the restoration.
Krepps said James Enlow, his Scoutmaster from Troop 472 in Norvelt, was one volunteer who helped immensely with the completion of his project.
“He was with me every step of the way,” Krepps said.
Another volunteer whose services Krepps said were incremental to the restoration was society member Rob Myers of Penn Township.
Myers had previously studied and completed classes on the restoration of tombstones, he said.
With Myers' help, Krepps was able to right and repair almost all of the fallen stones.
“The only stones we left alone were ones that would have been damaged even more had we moved them,” Myers said.
Korean War Veteran and society member Gerald “Bud” Shepler and his wife, Peggy, of Ligonier, donated the flag and flagpole for the cemetery.
“This is something Kevin should be proud of,” Shepler said. “He did a perfect job.”
When Krepps first began to research the severely neglected cemetery, he was unable to find anyone to take responsibility for it, he said. With no one claiming the land, the cemetery was considered abandoned, he said.
Krepps approached the society, who agreed to back him in the restoration.
Krepps presented society members with a booklet containing before and after photos of his progress, and information he obtained about those who are buried there.
“We're very pleased with what he's accomplished,” society member Peggy Shepler said. “It has been a project of love and personal commitment.”
Krepps was awarded a plaque from the historical society for the completion of his project.
In the months since the finishing the restoration, Krepps has continued to maintain the Ritter Cemetery grounds.
“Kevin worked very hard,” said his mother, Jennifer Krepps. “I'm very proud of him.”
Krepps attends Westmoreland County Community College, where he is working toward a degree in secondary education.
He said he hopes to stay active with his Boy Scout troop, and possibly one day become a troop leader.
“I learned a great deal by completing this project,” Krepps said.
Cami DiBattista is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.