American Legionnaires, scouts spruce up Pioneer Cemetery

Members of American Legion Post 342 and Boy Scout Troop 33 take time out of their weekend to clean up Pioneer Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Larry Miller

Pioneer Cemetery, situated just off old Batavia Road on the Fermilab grounds, serves as the final resting place for the area’s early settlers, as well as a general who served in the War of 1812.

A few months ago, when former American Legion Post 342 Commander Larry Miller visited the burial ground, he noticed that the trees’ lifeless, low-hanging branches kept sunlight from making its way across the roughly quarter-acre plot. So he decided to call in the troops to help spruce up the cemetery.

“It really needed some attention,” Miller said.

Over one weekend in late October, members of the St. Charles, Ill., post of the American Legion and of Boy Scout Troop 33, along with a few parents, tended to Pioneer Cemetery, giving it some TLC before Veterans Day. They raked leaves, hauled out dead wood, re-layered the ground with wood chips and replaced the fence rails.

“We couldn’t have done this without the scouts’ help,” Miller said. “They did all the muscle work. If it were just the Legion members, we would’ve broken our backs.”

But the Legionnaires didn’t simply stand by while the scouts cleared the plot. They not only volunteered their time and energy to the project, they also footed the bill for the cleanup, purchasing equipment they didn’t have on hand and providing the doughnuts, hot chocolate and pizza to keep everyone upbeat and happy.

It was an opportunity to give back, they said.

“Batavia’s my hometown—I grew up here,” said Post 342 Commander John Westphall. “Cleaning up the cemetery was a worthwhile community project for us and for the scouts.”

After the work was done, the group treated themselves to a view of the bison.

“I appreciate the American Legion’s enthusiasm and all the hard work the scouts put into the cemetery,” said David Shemanske of Roads and Grounds. “They deserve all the credit for making it look as nice as it does now.”

Leah Hesla

Pioneer Cemetery now looks as nice as it does thanks to the efforts of American Legion Post 342 and Boy Scout Troop 33. Photo: David Shemanske, Roads and Grounds