Clayton Township dedicates veterans memorial
CLAYTON TWP. — The Clayton Township cemetery has set up a memorial listing all 107 veterans buried there, including 16 Civil War vets, recognizing military service that may be lacking on their markers.
A dedication ceremony was held Memorial Day at the cemetery, attended by township officials, local veterans, and roughly 100 other visitors. The memorial took some time to come together, however.
Sandra Bowen, who worked alongside her husband Roger to get the memorial placed, said the idea initially came along a couple years ago, when the cemetery groundskeeper Bill Cunningham mentioned to her husband that it was one of the few cemeteries in the area with nothing commemorating the veterans buried there.
“Roger is a disabled Vietnam veteran himself, so he designed and built the memorial,” Bowen said. “It’s on a board with individual tags — an inch by 4-inch gold tags — attached to a board that is enclosed in a steel frame, with a glass front.”
Each tag lists as much information as she could find, Bowen said. The vast majority list the person’s name and dates of birth and death, which branch of the military they served in, when they served, and what rank they achieved.
“Some of them, I didn’t have anybody to contact, so I didn’t put any of that information on there, but the majority have some information on them,” Bowen said.
The research for the memorial started around January 2012, and Bowen said she hit a few snags along the way. As it turned out, after she talked to family members, four of the people buried at the cemetery who were considered veterans had never actually served in the military. Bowen is not sure where the confusion came from, speculating that at some point, someone had placed a flag on their graves at the same time the township had been placing flags on the veterans’ graves.
Bowen said the cemetery is the resting place for 1,431 people going back to 1871. She believes the number of vets buried there is indicative of how important fighting for their country was to the area’s residents.
“Our cemetery isn’t that large compared to some of them around,” she said. “To have that many veterans speaks well for our township that we had a lot of guys fight for the country here.”
The memorial was placed near a new flagpole and a similar board listing everyone who is buried in the cemetery, where they are, and the plot owners. It also features a map and history of the cemetery, as well as the name of the current sextant. Bowen said both boards should help people find their loved ones and ancestors when they come to visit.
“I’ve been to cemeteries where you can’t find anything, and that was my goal,” she said. “To aid someone who visits the cemetery to be able to find their loved ones.”
During the dedication ceremony Memorial Day, Bowen said township Supervisor Ray Daniels read a short poem, while Trustee Byron Fogarasi read off the names of all the veterans there.
Bowen has not stopped with the memorial. She said she is currently doing research to get grave markers for four of the cemetery’s Civil war veterans through the Veteran Administration, similar to the ones given to John Caton and Henry Serens of Arenac Township and Oscar Bentley of Bentley. She said she has gotten two markers already and is applying for two more.
“There were four that didn’t have markers,” Bowen said.
She said VA rules prevent veterans who died prior to 1990 from getting a military marker unless their grave is unmarked, even if they only have a family gravestone or a footstone with their name on it. As a result, only those four are eligible.