Boy Scout helps Civil War vet get headstone at Wheaton Cemetery

James Cress was laid to rest at a cemetery in Wheaton, but until Monday, his gravesite did not have a proper headstone.
November 11, 2013 3:31:24 PM PST
On this Veterans Day, a suburban boy scout is paying tribute to a soldier who fought in the Civil War. He was laid to rest at a cemetery in Wheaton, but until Monday, his gravesite did not have a proper headstone. The Wheaton Cemetery is the final resting place for James Cress, a Civil War veteran whose burial plot never had a headstone until Monday.

James Cress was with the 51st Pennsylvania Infantry, survived the Civil War, moved to Illinois and lived a long life. One hundred and two years after his death, he now has a headstone courtesy the work of a young man who was born 85 years after Cress had died.

"Basically we found a list at the library, it had all the Civil War vets that were buried here at the Wheaton Cemetery," said Josh Brenc, Boy Scout.

Boy Scout Josh Brenc was challenged by his Scoutmaster to dig into history and see if he put together all the evidence to honor a vet from another time. Easy? No way.

"The full nine yards, really. Getting through everything, I can't put it in different words that that. (Frustrating?) Frustrating, at times. Arguments with parents, the whole works," said Brenc.

What Josh discovered was that the VA requires that to provide a headstone for a vet, you've got to find a living relative to verify things. Fortunately, Josh was able to track down James Malone, the great grandson of James Cress, who provided the info-- even has great grandpa's tattered diary. The Eagle Scout candidate learned perseverance, a family is honored, and history lives.

"This is a great honor to see him honored like that because of the great work he did during the Civil War. I'm very happy that he did it," said James Malone, great-grandson of James Cress.

"We have Veterans Day today, and some of these people out there, they remember everybody but they need to have a way to remember them, and a memorial is really the way to do that," said Brenc.

The weather Monday dictates that locating the headstone must wait, but James Cress, the long-departed Civil War vet, is not forgotten.

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