Dorothy Paytas, Kim Leroy and Sue Huerbin of Middlesex labored in the brisk cold under sunny skies to place wooden crosses at the graves of veterans buried at West Sunbury Cemetery in Clay.
For the past 10 years, the trio has decorated graves for Veterans Day and Memorial Day, and spruced them up at other times during the year. This Veterans Day, something special marks the graves — handmade crosses.
“It's a project we enjoy doing,” Leroy of Butler, said about decorating the graves. “I think the veterans have done so much for us, keeping us safe. A little flower or cross — they deserve something like that.”
They knew some of the veterans they honored.
Leroy and Huerbin of Middlesex, both 53, work at Colonial Gardens Guest House, a home for disabled veterans in Penn. Paytas, 80, of Renfrew retired last year after working at Colonial Gardens about 50 years.
The women started tending the graves of eight former service members who were residents of Colonial Gardens: Peter DiProspero, John Mason, Dr. Robert McFarland, Steve Pennington, Robert Reemsnyder, Gary Skiba, Edward Weber and Steve Voss.
Noticing that seven other graves had no headstones, just flat markers from the Veterans Administration denoting their military service, the women “adopted” the graves of Lamont Crope, Malverne Wolfe, Anthony Karailunas, James Morgan, Gerald Peotter, Howard McLaren and Michael Ulrich.
“We love our guys; this is our thank you for them,” Huerbin said.
The men served in World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War. McLaren served in both World War II and Korea.
Paytas, a member of the Meridian Veterans Club Ladies Auxiliary of Butler, had the idea of decorating the graves with crosses.
She asked Warren “Bill” Watson, a member of Meridian Veterans known for his woodworking, to make the markers.
“The auxiliary does a lot for us,” Watson said. “I think it was a great idea to remember the vets.”
The auxiliary paid for the material, which cost about $30.
Watson decided to make the crosses dark brown and in a simple style, to evoke the Old Rugged Cross of the famous song, he said. He made them of a composite decking material that “stands up to all weather,” Watson said. “It'll be maintenance-free and it'll last.”
Watson, who had a stroke and does not have full use of one arm, took about two hours to complete the project, which might take an able person 10 minutes, he said.
“They're beautiful,” Judy Volchko of Butler, president of the Ladies Auxiliary, said of the crosses, which were installed last month. “It's our way of saying, ‘We recognize you and thank you'” for serving.
The women erected two crosses marking a row of flat markers for seven veterans who were cremated, Volchko said the auxiliary will have five more crosses made to honor each of the seven.
“People shouldn't remember them just because it's holiday time,” Leroy said.
Sandra Fischione Donovan is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- OSHA fines Mars excavating company for March trench collapse
- State closing Zelienople treatment facility after allegations of child sexual abuse
- South Butler teachers’ union rejects recommendations for new contract
- Charges pending in Butler County Rottweiler attack
- Officials identify Clearfield man killed in Butler County trench collapse