Headstones honor World War vets

By on November 24, 2011

Photos: Two of the recently installed tombstones on formerly unmarked graves at Blackberry Cemetery. All Photos by Sandy Kaczmarski

Graves of two veterans no longer unmarked after two-year effort
by Sandy Kaczmarski
ELBURN—“I still have 42 people that I know are buried in the cemetery, but I don’t know where,” Fred Dornback said.

He ought to know. He’s the sexton of Blackberry Township Cemetery at the corner of Keslinger Road and Main Street.

As he put it, “that’s a story by itself.”

But Dornback was successful in locating two soldiers who were previously buried in unmarked graves and got headstones installed just in time for Veteran’s Day. The grave sites of military veterans Oscar E. Lundblad and Frank L. Wilson now are marked with white marble stones.

“They’re beautiful,” Dornback said of the stones that are similar to those at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. He purposefully chose a little different marker since most of the military markers are bronzed.

“These stand out beautifully, just like I wanted them to,” Dornback said.

The search took nearly two years to complete.

“We had a (burial) permit for these two gentlemen from way back when, but didn’t know where they were buried at that time,” he said.

Dornback, with the help of local historian Helen Johnson, 83, poured through old issues of The Elburn Herald searching for some clues. They also worked closely with the Kane County Genealogical Society, and they even use a lot of online sources these days, too.

One obstacle was a major fire in 1973 at the National Archives and Records Administration in St. Louis, where all military records were stored. There were no duplicates, no microfilm copies, no indexes. About 80 percent of the information on veterans discharged between November 1912 and January 1960 were simply gone.

Dornback said he at least had the service numbers, which are equivalent to a military dog tag, so he was able to verify their service.

“I found his (Lundblad’s) obituary in the paper,” Johnson said. “I went through The Elburn Herald because we knew the year he died, but there was no family. He came from Sweden.”

Local historian Helen Johnson (right), joins friends at the Kountry Kettle every morning to catch up on news. This morning she chats with Bill Mack of Elburn (left to right), Cindy Clausen of Maple Park, Gene Godfrey of St. Charles, Fred Proctor and Lois Mack, both of Elburn.

With almost 3,000 people buried in the cemetery, Dornback and Johnson have been trying to categorize each grave since taking over in 2007. Dornback suggested they take photographs of each grave so they could continue their research using the computer when the weather doesn’t cooperate, but it also provides a visual record of each grave site.

The cemetery originally was established in 1860, but Johnson said some people were buried there before then. The earliest “born” date is 1772. Johnson said they have three veterans buried there listed as far back as the War of 1812.

Dornback is very pleased that the graves of veterans Lundblad and Wilson are finallly properly marked.

“They’re beautiful markers,” he said again. “I’m sure they’ll get a little more attention next Memorial Day when we have the ceremony at the cemetery.”