But many other memorials were never installed
Carl Hansen, who served as a private first-class in the U.S. Army, died in 2012, but a bronze marker honoring his military service was not added to his grave in Cold Spring Cemetery on Peekskill Road until Veterans Day (Nov. 11).
“Dad always told my mother and I that we wouldn’t have to worry about a grave marker,” said his daughter, Lillian Moser, who lives in Cold Spring. She added that her father had assumed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs would take care of the marker and expenses.
That was a reasonable assumption. The VA provides markers for veterans at no cost, but it only covers the installation fees for burial in a national or military cemetery such as Arlington, not at private ones. The Cold Spring Cemetery Association, which operates as a nonprofit, charges $500 to install a veteran’s marker on a concrete base (or $1,000 for installation in granite), and at the time the family had enough money for a funeral but was not aware of the additional fee.
“The cemetery needs a certain level of income to stay solvent,” said Paul Kinkel, the association president. He said the cemetery charges $1,900 for plots and $1,800 as an interment fee for both veterans and non-veterans.
Last May, while placing flags on veterans’ graves for Memorial Day, Aaron Leonard realized Hansen’s grave was unmarked. Leonard is president of the Cold Spring Fire Co., where Moser is a firefighter. He is also the executive director of Another Summit, a branch of the Beacon-based Guardian Revival, which supports veterans and first responders who are dealing with post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Guardian Revival and the American Legion Post 275 Auxiliary in Cold Spring teamed up and quickly raised the $500; Hansen’s marker was dedicated in a ceremony on Veterans Day. “It was very nice, really nice,” Moser said.
She and her mother were fortunate because Hansen’s VA marker had been stored for all those years at the Clinton Funeral Home in Cold Spring. “We promised the family we’d hold onto it until it was installed,” said Anthony Calabrese, the funeral home’s manager.
Although VA markers are typically ordered by funeral homes, Doug Logan, who managed the Cold Spring Cemetery for decades, had markers delivered directly to the cemetery, where they were stored awaiting installation. However, many were never placed on a grave, and in 2018, the cemetery placed an ad in the Putnam County News & Recorder listing the names of 27 veterans who had died as early as 1970 and whose markers were yet to be installed. While some of the markers were installed as a result of the ad, Kinkel said about 18 were shipped back to the VA.
Calabrese said Clinton’s will store a marker if the family requests it but that the funeral home currently has none that are unclaimed. He said he recently had to reorder one from the VA that had been sent back by the cemetery years ago.
“We tell families upfront that the cemetery, not the funeral home, requires a $500 fee,” Calabrese said. Most families accept it as part of the burial cost.
He said that for a funeral, Clinton’s handles the VA paperwork for the family.
A spokesperson for the VA said that in addition to receiving a marker, some families may be eligible for a financial allowance toward other expenses such as the funeral, cemetery plot and burial. Claims for a non-service-connected burial must be filed within two years of the internment. There is no time limit for filing a service-related claim.
Service-connected burial allowances range from $1,500 to $2,000, depending on the year of death. For non-service-connected deaths, the allowance ranges from $734 to $948 for burial and for the plot. Marker or headstone allowances range from $199 to $290.
In Beacon, St. Joachim Cemetery includes the graves of more than 1,000 veterans dating back to the Civil War. Ed Archer, who retired recently after serving as manager there for more than 10 years, said he knows of no markers ever being returned to the VA. The cemetery itself does not install markers; the funeral homes handle the paperwork, collect the fees and work with the installer.
Fairview Cemetery in Beacon uses the same approach. The cemetery was established in 1894 and a spokesperson said the only time a veteran’s burial plot might be unmarked is if the grave is extremely old.
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