‘Monumental’ Eagle Scout project honors Civil War vets

| Kathryn Elliott | October 4, 2011 | 0 Comments

A month before his 18th birthday, Patrick Finnegan completed his Eagle Scout project: sprucing up 70 Civil War-era gravestones at Calvary Cemetery in St. Paul.

“This interested me a lot,” Finnegan said. “Just kind of how there’s nobody paying attention to [the gravestones]. None of their families are around anymore.”

For two years, Jon Louris, operations manager for The Catholic Cemeteries, wanted to restore the Civil War stones, which had become overgrown and unlevel.

Exceeding expectations

Finnegan and his parents, from St. Rose of Lima in Roseville, Scoutmaster Dave Richart, and a dozen Scouts from Troop 266 spent several hours cutting around the gravestones and sweeping off the markers.

“It was a problem waiting for a solution,” Louris said.

Father Robert Fitzpatrick, pastor of St. Rose of Lima, has been very supportive of Scouting as a way of developing leadership in youth, Richert said.

The Scouts exceeded expectations by helping with the more difficult task of lifting and leveling the markers by pouring sand underneath, Louris said. They topped it off by placing an American flag, donated by Roseville Veterans of Foreign Wars, on each finished product.

“It’s hard to put into words, but I am grateful for the help,” Louris said.

The cemetery employs one full-time groundskeeper and several seasonal employees for upkeep during the spring and summer months. Budget cutbacks and less family participation have led to a “lower level of maintenance” for some markers and monuments, Louris said.

Only about 3 percent of boys that begin Scouting achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, said Richert, Troop 266 Scoutmaster since 2000.

Although he’s not a parent, Richert said it’s a pleasure to watch boys grow up to become self-reliant to the point where they can pull off a project like Finnegan’s “without very much adult supervision —or interference.”

Richert has known Finnegan for years through involvement with the St. Rose of Lima youth ministry program. Finnegan served as a peer minister on a confirmation retreat, a trait that “bodes well” in Richert’s eyes, he said.

“I like to see kids wanting to share their faith with the other kids. And Patrick does that very well,” he said.

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