HARTFORD — A number of Bend Area teenagers were recognized at a ceremony Monday for their work in cleaning a Hartford cemetery.
West Virginia House of Delegates member Scott Cadle (R-Mason, 13th District) presented the teens, as well as donors, with citations from both the Legislature and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. The ceremony was held at the Hartford Town Hall.
The youth spent most of 2015 working to clear and clean Brown Cemetery, a forgotten site where nearly 500 are buried. Among them are many of Hartford’s early residents, as well as veterans from the Civil War, World War I and World War II. The earliest grave the teens found was from the 1830s.
The project began when Chris Rizer, a 2015 Wahama High School graduate, was working on his senior project, “The History of Hartford.” While doing research, his mentor reminded him of the cemetery, which stands atop a hill. When Rizer visited the cemetery, he found it in deplorable condition with many headstones overturned. The markers that were standing had been overtaken by brush, locust trees and yucca plants. The road to the cemetery was impassable to most, only being accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles.
The students spent their spring, after school and on weekends, cleaning the area, setting up headstones, and painting and restoring the flagpole. The work did not stop however, when most of the teens graduated in May. They continued throughout the summer, using funds garnered from a “Go Fund Me” account they set up.
Rizer kept the public apprised of the progress on a Facebook site, first named Brown Cemetery, then later changed to Mason County Historic Preservation. The site remains active today, with Rizer updating it regularly.
On Flag Day in June, members of the Smith-Capehart American Legion Post 140 of New Haven joined the teens to raise the American Flag over the cemetery once again. The flag was donated by the Woodmen of the World.
Delegate Cadle said Monday he felt the teens were very deserving of the recognition. Cadle stated often teenagers are in the news for the negative, and he was proud to be presenting citations for a positive project.
Although several of the teens were absent for various reasons, those attending to receive their citations were Rizer, Wesley Jones, Destiny Ingels, Jacob Petry, Kaleb Petry, Christian Petry, A.J. Howard, Cole Herdman, Chandler Herdman, and Austin Juelfs. Donors present and recognized were Angie Juelfs-Johnson and the Town of Hartford, which will now take over the cemetery maintenance.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing who lives in Mason County.