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updated: 11/11/2013 5:51 PM

Civil War vet finally has headstone thanks to Wheaton Scout

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  • Boy Scout Josh Brenc stands Monday with James Malone of Wheaton at Wheaton Cemetery. As part of an Eagle Scout project, Brenc has secured a headstone for Malone's great grandfather, Civil War veteran James Cress.

       Boy Scout Josh Brenc stands Monday with James Malone of Wheaton at Wheaton Cemetery. As part of an Eagle Scout project, Brenc has secured a headstone for Malone's great grandfather, Civil War veteran James Cress.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Boy Scout Josh Brenc with the tombstone of Civil War veteran James Cress. He plans to clean other headstones Saturday at Wheaton Cemetery.

       Boy Scout Josh Brenc with the tombstone of Civil War veteran James Cress. He plans to clean other headstones Saturday at Wheaton Cemetery.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

James Malone can't recall exactly when he learned one of his ancestors was among the dozens of Civil War veterans buried at Wheaton Cemetery.

The 84-year-old Wheaton resident says his parents must have told him a long time ago that his great grandfather, James Cress, was laid to rest in 1911 at the cemetery along Warrenville Road.

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Even though the grave didn't have a headstone, Malone never forgot the location because a tree stands on the spot.

Now, thanks to a Boy Scout who is in the process of earning the prestigious Eagle Scout rank, everyone soon will be able to find Cress' gravesite.

Josh Brenc, a 17-year-old senior at Wheaton North High School, said he was looking for an Eagle project when his Scoutmaster suggested he do some work with Civil War headstones. Josh said the idea was a perfect fit because he hopes to be in the military.

"I knew it was something that was going to be memorable for me," Josh said. "It gives you a little bit of history that not every kid out there gets to have."

On Saturday, Josh and other Scouts are planning to clean 15 to 20 headstones at Wheaton Cemetery. But during his research, he learned that two of the 74 Civil War veterans buried there don't have markers.

So he decided to send applications to the Department of Veterans Affairs to get the headstones. As part of the effort, he had to locate a direct descendant and submit paperwork.

His months of work paid off when he was able to find Malone and secure the headstone for Cress. Josh originally planned to install it on Monday, but because of poor weather, the work had to be pushed back to Friday.

Malone, who got to see the headstone on Monday, said he's pleased with the result.

"I think it's a very fine thing to do," Malone said. "I was very surprised that they did it."

Cress was living in Gettysburg, Pa., when the tide-turning Battle of Gettysburg began in 1863, according to Malone. He joined the Union Army about a year and half later and served as a surgeon.

Josh's Scoutmaster, Frank Jeffers of Warrenville, said he's proud of what Josh accomplished.

"It takes a lot of perseverance for a young man of his age," Jeffers said. "In a world that is used to instant gratification, to stick with a project ... he's done a great job."

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