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Work on Scottdale Cemetery headstones continues

| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Paul Paterra | The Independent-Observer
Tom Dugger, supervisor of the Scottdale Cemetery, watches as Bob Shasdorf and Bill Wesolowski continue the project to fix headstones.

It's been a familiar sight at the Scottdale Cemetery for about five or six years.

Volunteers at the cemetery on 1108 S. Broadway Ave. can be seen fixing numerous headstones, which over the many years have come into disrepair.

“We've been resetting stones, setting stones up that fell over, ones that are leaning, just basically putting stones back up that have been turned over,” said Thomas Dugger, cemetery superintendent.

Dugger has worked at the cemetery since 1973 and said the Scottdale Cemetery Association set as a priority fixing the older head stones. He said in the past five years about 250 to 300 headstones have been fixed at the cemetery.

“Usually, it's just because they're old,” said Ralph Ermine, owner of Davis Monuments and a member of the cemetery association board of directors. “They didn't use to have cemetery vaults, so they lean into the grave, then after a while they fall over.”

Ermine and fellow board members such as Don Kiefer, president; Rob Ferguson Sr., vice-president-treasurer, Lynn Andrus, secretary, and Thomas Ermine have made sure the project has continued each year.

Such a project is important for many reasons. Of course, there's the upkeep of the cemetery. Dugger said fixing the gravestones makes it easier to cut the grass. Plus, fixed gravestones improve the overall aesthetics of the cemetery. After the stone is fixed, it's cleaned.

While work has taken place on the gravestones for a number of years, it's not a year-round task.

“We usually do it in the summer,” Ermine said. “We do what we have time to do every year. Some of these were leaning pretty good.”

As of Aug. 12, the cemetery was the home to 5,260 graves.

There's also the historical aspect of a cemetery.

“There's people in this cemetery that were prominent in town,” Dugger said. “Herbie Morrison, who saw the Hindenberg (disaster), he's buried up on top of the hill.”

The cemetery also serves as the final resting place for The Bird Boy of Scottdale, James Dewitt Hill. Hill, who learned to fly in 1909, worked as a flight instructor and was a member of the U.S. Airmail Service before his historic attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 1927 that cost him his life.

Many of the gravestones at the cemetery have received some work.

“I think we've done a lot of the front section,” Ermine said, while pointing out other sections of the cemetery where work has taken place. “When you go through and do the worst ones, the other ones look bad. Naturally, you try to put the ones back up that fell over or they're leaning pretty bad and they're ready to all over.”

There are many more gravestones to be fixed, but the goal is to tend to every one that does need fixed.

“There's a ways to go yet,” Ermine said.

“It will probably be another two years anyway,” Dugger added.

Anyone who would to donate to the project may mail a check in care of Don Kiefer at Scottdale Bank & Trust or can take the donation directly to the bank.

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or