A 4-H club’s community-service project is ensuring the veterans lying in peace at Halfway Creek Lutheran Church Cemetery are still being honored.
The members and leaders of the Trail Blazers 4-H Club spent the afternoon of May 10 cleaning the gravestones of those veterans and others at the rural Holmen cemetery.
Jarrod Roll, professional tombstone preservationist and restorer, advised 4-Hers in the methods for removing the lichens and grime covering the tombstones.
Roll said hand-washing is the best method for cleaning and preserving the stone markers. Despite its hardness, granite can be damaged by more expedient methods.
“Cemetery Associations don’t have enough money to clean or repair grave markers,” said Roll. “Most struggle with even providing mowing services. That’s why it’s wonderful when volunteer groups like 4-H step in to help.”
Roll’s son Jedediah, a Trail Blazer 4-H Club member, suggested the service project to his fellow 4-Hers. Roll said his son has been involved in gravestone cleaning for most of his life. When their son was an infant, Roll and his wife would take him along on gravestone-cleaning expeditions.
The Trail Blazer 4-H Club boasts a membership of 49 with members from La Crosse, West Salem, Sparta, Onalaska and Holmen.
Even the club’s leaders were hands-on for the community-service project.
“It’s kind of gratifying to see the difference,” said Trail Blazers 4-H Club leader Peggy Maricle as she scrubbed one of the markers.
Cemetery association member and Holmen historian Hannah Scholze pointed out the oldest tombstone in the cemetery. It marked the resting place of Civil War veteran Johannes Oleson. As far as Scholze has been able to determine through her research, the marker is the only record the Civil War veteran was from the Holmen area.
Scholze noted the crew of volunteers was able to clean more markers than anticipated.
“The final count was 44 gravestones cleaned; the majority of them were veterans’ gravestones,” Scholze said. “I know the (Halfway Creek Lutheran Church) Cemetery Association really appreciated all the effort the 4-H families put in.”