2 friends make a mission of replacing worn or missing markers on vets’ graves

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Dave Walker, left, places a new marker on a veteran’s grave in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Medina, while Tom Beach holds other new markers, which will replace missing or worn ones.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 8 October 2021 at 9:01 am

MEDINA – Replacing worn or missing markers from veterans’ graves in Orleans County cemeteries is something that has needed to be done for a long time, said Frank Berger, a veteran and Eighth District Past Commander and member of the American Legion in Medina.

For several weeks, two local veterans – Dave Walker and Tom Beach – have been visiting cemeteries in Shelby and Ridgeway to replace worn or missing markers on the graves of veterans who served in every conflict in which America has been involved.

Dave Walker, left, and Tom Beach hold markers which are placed on the graves of all veterans in Orleans County cemeteries who have served their country.

Their mission started last spring with they visited all the cemeteries to determine how many markers needed replacing.

“We walked every cemetery,” Beach said.

They found more than 40 markers without flags and more than 200 markers which needed to be replaced.

A fund in which the two towns and village of Medina contribute money covers the costs for the markers and flags. Once they are ordered there is a wait for them to arrive.

When they finally got here a few days ago, the two men began the task of placing them.

“The history lesson we got was incredible,” Walker said.

During their visits to the cemeteries, they found markers were needed on the graves of three Gold Star Mothers, four Revolutionary War soldiers, 45 Civil War soldiers, 25 Spanish-American War soldiers, 35 World War I soldiers, 50 World War II soldiers, 10 Korean War soldiers, 10 Vietnam War soldiers, five who served in the Marine Corps and five Daughters of the American Revolution.

“This is a labor of love and respect,” Walker said.

The relationship between Walker and Tom Beach began when Walker returned after serving two years in the Vietnam War.

“Tom was the first – and only – one to welcome me home, and we’ve been friends ever since,” Walker said.

The men said they saved two of the bigger cemeteries for last. After they finish St. Mary’s, the only one left is Boxwood.

Cemeteries in Albion and Holley are taken care of by the American Legion and VFW posts in those towns. The Houseman-Tanner American Legion in Lyndonville does the markers and flags in the town of Yates.