COVINGTON — What began as an endeavor to replace seven headstones in Highland Cemetery quickly turned into lessons in genealogy, Civil War history and physical labor for Michael Schafer Jr.
Schafer, a member of Boy Scout Troop 343 in Covington, undertook the task of replacing the worn marble grave markers with white granite headstones as his Eagle Scout project after meeting Mike Spaulding of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
“For several years, I had been going with my troop to decorate headstones at the V.A. Medical Center down in Dayton for Memorial Day and I met this gentleman, who had helped other people do Civil War headstone replacement projects,” said Schafer, the son of Michael and Heidi Schafer.
Schafer began his project in early December and finished on June 12, logging 219 hours of sweat equity — 126 of which were done on his own, his father noted with pride. The remainder of those hours were completed with the help of family members and other Scouts.
“I had to do some very extensive genealogy work to find out the soldiers’ birthdays, units, regiments, ranks, and branches of service,” Schafer explained. “I went to the Piqua Public Library; their genealogy department was a big help.”
After gathering all the necessary information, Schafer contacted the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C., to obtain the new headstones.
“That took several weeks, so the ground had thawed enough to start digging by the time I actually started the physical aspect of the project,” Schafer said.
“That was the hardest part. The headstones are over 200 pounds each, and we didn’t know what we would run into as we dug. Each one was different; they had different foundations — some were cement, some were boulders, some had blocks of limestone they were secured to.”
After the project was completed, Schafer had his board review on July 6, and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.
“It’s the highest honor you can achieve as a Boy Scout,” he said. “I was really driven to achieve it.”
At 15, Schafer is relatively young for an Eagle Scout. According to the Scouting Magazine website, the average age of an Eagle Scout in 2015 was 17.34 years old, as opposed to 14.6 in the late 1940s. This can be attributed to young men staying in scouting longer and not feeling the rush to achieve the rank of Eagle until their 18th birthday approaches.
Schafer, who is an upcoming sophomore at Covington High School, also runs track and plays saxophone in the school’s marching band.
Reach Belinda M. Paschal at (937) 451-3341