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Veterans Cemetery in Pembroke could be named for Buffalo war hero

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 July 2014 at 12:00 am

VA should work to buy neighboring site, Schumer says

Provided photo from State Assemblyman Steve Hawley’s Office – State Assemblyman Steve Hawley is pictured with two veterans during a news conference in Pembroke on Monday when Hawley and elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said they want the site to be named in honor of William Donovan, a Buffalo native who served in World War I.

PEMBROKE – A new cemetery for Western New York veterans in Pembroke should be named after a decorated war hero from Buffalo, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and other elected officials said Monday.

Schumer stopped at the site in Pembroke to launch a campaign to name the new Western New York Veterans’ Cemetery after “Wild Bill” Donovan. He served as a Lt. Colonel in World War I. He founded and led the Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the CIA, during World War II. Donovan is the only American to earn all four of the highest military awards in the United States.

“‘Wild Bill’ Donovan is a true Western New York hero, and I cannot think of any better way to commemorate his life, and honor our region’s veterans, than by naming the new Western New York Veterans Cemetery after ‘Wild Bill,'” Schumer said. “Western New York’s veterans, and their families, deserve to have a national cemetery that is close to home, bucolic, and imbued with significance. This beautiful site, named after ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, and less than an hour away from both Buffalo and Rochester, would be just that. I am urging the VA to make this a reality as quickly as possible.”

The push to honor Donovan has bipartisan support. State Assemblyman Steve Hawley said he supports the effort. He also said the spot in Genesee County for the cemetery is a good choice.

“A veteran’s cemetery right here in Pembroke is great for Western New York’s military families,” Hawley said. “This location will benefit military families as they pay their respects for a loved one. I encourage veterans and others to write in support of the Donovan name or other suggestions. As plans for the cemetery advance, I’ll continue working with local, state, and federal officials to make it a reality.”

Schumer also is calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand the cemetery beyond 132 acres. He wants the VA to buy 60 more neighboring acres.
The VA is now doing its due diligence on the site, taking geological samples to confirm the land is suitable for cemetery use. When the VA initially conducted its search for a site, it was seeking a 200-acre site, Schumer said.

When this could not be found, it sought sites of 100 acres or more. Purchasing this adjoining 60-acre site from the Haeger family would increase the size of the cemetery by 50 percent and bring it close to the 200 acres the VA originally sought, Schumer said.

Schumer noted that the first full phase of construction, currently planned for the 132-acre site, will include the development of cemetery roads, an entrance, administration and public information center, committal shelters and a maintenance facility.

This infrastructure will support approximately the first 10 years of burial capacity for casket gravesites, cremation sites and columbarium niches. Schumer said the sooner the new 60-acre property can be purchased, the easier it will be to incorporate the area into the construction and design plans.

“We have an opportunity to immediately make this cemetery site 50 percent larger, and we should not hesitate to take it,” he said. “The VA should finalize its evaluation of the adjoining property and purchase it right away, before circumstances change. We have hundreds of thousands of people who may choose to be buried here, and we should take advantage of every chance we get to expand the site so it can better accommodate the Western New York’s veteran population.”