Scout honors late trustee with cemetery project


By Sandi Latimer
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Sandi Latimer
Gunnar Schmidt and his parents Jane and Mark, burn the first flag in the fire ring that he designed and built at Oak Grove Cemetery. He had built the disposal pit and base for the flagpole as his Eagle Scout project. It was dedicated Memorial Day in memory of Schmidt’s friend and neighbor the late Keith Goldhardt, a former Pleasant Township trustee who he said played a big part in his life.

Pleasant Township now has a fire pit where American flags can properly be disposed of, thanks to the efforts of a 14-year-old Boy Scout working toward the Eagle Scout level.

About 100 people braved the 90-degree plus heat Memorial Day to see the work Gunnar Schmidt of Troop 412 performed at Oak Grove Cemetery over the past eight months.

The project began when trustees, who had seen a fire ring at another cemetery, thought it would be nice to have one in Pleasant Township. Word got around and an announcement was made at a meeting of Troop 412.

“I decided that’s what I wanted for my Eagle Scout project,” Gunnar said.

He was also remembering the nearly daily chats he’d had with his family’s long-time friend and neighbor Keith Goldhardt, a former Pleasant Township trustee.

“Keith is the one who told him he could be an Eagle Scout,” said Gunnar’s mother Jane.

“We just hung out,” Gunnar said of his nearly daily visits with the former trustee.

When Goldhardt died in September 2010 at the age of 63, he was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

“The project came together with the help of family, friends, scouts and the constant encouragement from the Pleasant Township trustees,” Gunnar wrote in a flyer handed out at the ceremony.

Not only did he do the research of how to design and build the fire pit and an adjoining base for a flag pole, but he did the building and was responsible for the raising of funds.

“I appreciate and thank everyone for all your support throughout this project, he wrote.
Trustee Ed Sheets, speaking for the trustees, also thanked the sponsors, and praised Gunnar for his hard work and all the labor and planning that went into the project.

“He has done an excellent job and we wish him good luck in the future,” Sheets said.

Bob Schmitz of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3441 called Memorial Day a time for remembrance and that this work was also a time for remembrance. A 21-gun salute and Taps played by West Jefferson trumpeters Calista Wallace and Madalyn Charles preceded the flag retirement ceremony. After the raising of the American flag and the Oak Grove Cemetery flag, Gunnar invited the audience to join the scouts in burning the worn, torn and faded flags that had been donated.

Inside the square fire ring was what looked like the lid and rack from a square barbecue grill. On top of the rack were easy-starting fire logs. Scouts then built the base for a small bonfire.

As the fire blazed orange flames, Gunnar and his parents, Jane and Mark, walked to the pit, unfolded an old flag and carefully dropped it, blue star-studded field last, into the pit. Scouts stood at the edge of the pit at attention doing the scout salute. When the flag was fully consumed by the flames, a scout proclaimed “Flag burned” and the scouts dropped their arms.

Gunnar performed similar tasks with other members of his family and with Goldhardt’s widow Patty.

Township residents had donated their old flags for the initial burning to the township fire department. Chief Brian Taylor says the department will continue to collect flags. Burning is the proper way to dispose of a worn, torn, tattered or faded American flag.

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