On November 11, we set aside time, as a nation and a community to honor our many veterans who have served the nation for us all. Schools, civic groups, local governmental bodies and churches all come together to honor our living as well as our fallen veterans. Princeton’s historic Oakland Cemetery is the final resting place for over 1,000 local veterans. The graves of brave veterans from the War of 1812 to the most current conflicts can be found here.
While the City of Princeton maintains the grounds of the cemetery, families purchase grave markers and are responsible for their perpetual care. In many cases, these families and their descendants are either no longer in the area, or perhaps do not have the time or financial resources to care for their grave markers. As a consequence, many sections of the cemetery have markers unattended and need repair. Most of our veterans’ graves no longer have the military markers that signify their status as a veteran.
Local resident Gary Johnson began a personal crusade three years ago to restore and reset Oakland’s markers and to make needed repairs to the cemetery. Gary has been certified by the State of Illinois to perform the restoration work and has personally paid for two employees to assist him in his work. During this time, Gary and his team have restored and reset over 1,435 grave markers.
Recently, the Oakland Cemetery Preservation Foundation has been established to insure that this work can be continued, not only to restore the cemetery now, but to ensure the future of this hallowed ground. The members of this committee have adopted a master plan to restore and rehabilitate Oakland. Included in this plan is the completion of repair to markers, resetting fallen stones, marking the streets and blocks to facilitate the finding of graves and providing each veteran with a service marker.
We would like to invite you to invest in this project. Oakland Cemetery needs your help. As we look forward to honoring our veterans this November 11, please consider making a gift to the Oakland Cemetery Preservation Foundation, not only to honor your friends and family members, but also our fallen veterans who gave so much to us.
Donations can be made to: Oakland Cemetery Preservation Foundation; c/o Starved Rock Country Community Foundation, 718 Columbus St., Ottawa IL 61350. For gift assistance, please call the foundation office at 815-252-2906. Gary Johnson can be reached at 602-363-4461.