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WDAY: The News Leader

Published June 13, 2012, 09:26 PM

Cemetery in Wahpeton may finally get the attention it deserves

Wahpeton, ND (WDAY TV) -- Old cemeteries dot the landscape of North Dakota. Many of them see minimal maintenance as churches close and families move away. In Wahpeton, one woman is determined to see that a cemetery with historic significance gets the attention it deserves.

Wahpeton, ND (WDAY TV) -- Old cemeteries dot the landscape of North Dakota, many of them see minimal maintenance as churches close and families move away. In Wahpeton, one woman is determined to see that a cemetery with historic significance gets the attention it deserves.

The riverside Cemetery just south of Wahpeton.

Darlene Lee - Richland County Community Service: "These are important. The civil war graves, all veterans are important, but this is the starting point."

These 8 graves of men who served to protect the union had been knocked over and broken. The headstones in some cases used for target practice.

Lee: "It really kind of ticks me off"

Darlene Lee is a veteran herself

Darlene Lee: "These are things that should be more important to everybody, not just the vets."

Through her work as a community service rep with the county she thought this would make a good project for inmates in the county jail.

Darlene Lee: "They are honored to come out here and do this work. Some of the guys who come out to do this don't even have community service, they're coming out and doing it voluntarily on their time."

Bill Peschel and members of the VFW started mowing the cemetery back in the 1970's when they found it overgrown.

Bill Peschel - Wahpeton VFW: "It's really a delight to see a group come out here and work on this. Actually our groups is getting a little old to be moving stones and digging, so having some of the younger people have some community service to do and have them here doing that I think is really remarkable."

Markers are being donated by local businesses and other are jumping in to help put not only the veterans grave, but the rest of the cemetery back together - part of which had been where paupers were buried.

The cemetery also has another unique feature - a marker shaped like a tent pole complete with ropes to mark where two circus workers are buried. They were killed by lightning while putting up a tent in Wahpeton in 1897.

The special section set up up for the Civil war vets may have more than just the 8 graves. Work is being done to find put if even more members of the Grand Army of the Republic are here.

Darlene Lee: "Unless you're a veteran you have no idea how important that is. It goes straight to your heart."

Another round of work at the cemetary is planned for June 23rd..

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