Friday, May 27, 2016

"I was a stranger, and you took me in ...."

Some 80 years after World War I veteran Charley Todd died a stranger among us and was buried with military honors by fellow veterans from Carl L. Caviness American Legion Post No. 102 in the Chariton Cemetery, a new generation dedicated a tombstone in his honor Thursday afternoon.

Charley, thought to have been about 50, died in a house fire on Oct. 23, 1937, along with his beloved dog, Queenie. No family could be found to claim his remains, so Legionnaires took charge and buried him with military honors in the Grand Army of the Republic section of the cemetery, set aside for veterans of all wars who have no other final resting place.

Although it was widely known around the square in Chariton that Charley, who had worked as a handyman there for about five years, had served in France during World War I, military records could not be linked definitively to him because his acquaintances actually knew very little about him. He apparently had roamed and rambled around the country since he was a young man. So no tombstone was erected.

Charley's forgotten grave was rediscovered a year ago, just before Memorial Day, and a volunteer drive led by Mary Stout Stierwalt raised sufficient funds to pay most of the cost involved in crafting a replica of the government-issue white marble stones that mark the graves of other World War I and World War II veterans buried in the G.A.R. plot. That complicated task --- marble rarely is used in tombstones these days outside the shops of specialty manufacturers who supply military cemeteries --- was undertaken by the Seddons of Chariton Monument Co., who underwrote some of the project's cost.


After the audience had gathered just after lunch on an overcast day under big trees that shade the G.A.R. plot, Earl Comstock opened the program and the new tombstone was unveiled.

Pastor Brenda Crossfield, of First Lutheran Church, conducted a brief dedicatory service.

Legionnaires from Chariton, Russell and Corydon then raised a flag on the G.A.R. flag pole --- cleaned and repaired by the city with a new solar-powered light atop it.

Adam Bahr concluded the program with "Taps."

Then it was time to round up Mary and convince her that she should pose with the new tombstone.


Unknown said...

You all should be proud of yourselves. Great job. RIP Charley.

Sonja said...

thanks for covering this story letting those of us who grew up in Chariton see the new stone and flag. I appreciate my small town and hopefully will be able to see this spot when we visit in late July. I'm sure we will since we will visit mom & dad's grave sites...Don & Betty Hixson.....