SALTSBURG – Amid a cold autumn rain, family members gathered with local veterans on Friday to dedicate a gravestone to a World War I veteran who died half a century ago.
âEven though it’s a rainy day, it’s still sunny,â said Jim Sagan as he witnessed the completion of his efforts to honor his late grandfather, Joseph S. Robinson.
Robinson (1899-1971) was buried in Edgewood Cemetery, just above the Saltsburg borough line in Conemaugh Township. Friday’s event has been called a rededication.
âEarlier this summer, I was contacted by Jim Sagan regarding obtaining a gravestone for his grandfather,â said Chuck Colton, president of Old Saltsburg Cemetery Restoration.
Colton is also a member of the Saltsburg Historical Society. Sagan found Colton while searching the Internet earlier this summer.
“I told Jim to contact Carson / Boyer Monuments in Rural Valley and he was able to get a free government issued bronze plaque because his grandfather was a World War I veteran,” Colton told the people gathered for the brief ceremony.
Jack Maguire of the Saltsburg Historical Society, the Edgewood Cemetery Board of Trustees, and the Saltsburg American Legion Post 57 Honor Guard also helped.
Charlie Boyer of Carson / Boyer Monuments was also praised by Colton in his remarks.
âJim also had some family headstones cleaned and repaired earlier this month here at Edgewood Cemetery,â Colton continued. “I congratulate and thank Jim and his sisters (Shari Mittaly and Nancy Summers) for wanting to keep their grandfather’s memory alive by having (this) new dedication.”
âIt’s wonderful that after 50 years we can honor our grandfather,â Mittaly said.
And John Hanna of the Edgewood Cemetery Board of Directors thought it was wonderful that Sagan and his loved ones were interested in the Conemaugh Township entity.
âUnfortunately, it’s an exception that people are interested in renovating and restoring sites like this,â Hanna said. âAnd this is becoming more and more necessary because, like everything around us, the cemetery is aging. “
And not a month goes by without a gravestone or cemetery monument starting to deteriorate, the Edgewood Cemetery Director said.
This prompted the cemetery council to look into restoration efforts, believing it could cost $ 200 to $ 300 to restore a gravestone – but Hanna said prices of $ 900 to $ 1,200 were listed. , by grave.
He hopes to gain public support for further restoration of Edgewood Cemetery, including an obelisk in the center of the cemetery which is a monument to efforts to restore a republic during a civil war 156 years ago.
As for this veteran of what has been called the “Great War” and the “War to End All Wars” half a century later, Sagan said his grandfather enlisted in the 657th Aero Squadron on December 2, 1917, at the age of 18Â½.
Robinson served with the 657th from December 23, 1917 until March 22, 1919.
âHe got two gold chevrons for serving on the war front,â Sagan said. Each chevron represented six months of service in the American Expeditionary Force.
However, Robinson’s record of service has faded over the decades.
âHe had veterans disability,â Sagan said. âHe never talked about it.
What happened to Robinson’s records, as well as those of other U.S. servicemen, added to the mystery.
âHis military records were destroyed in a fire in St. Louis in the 1980s,â Robinson’s grandson said.
Mittaly came from Latrobe to the ceremony, Summers from Virginia, and Sagan commuted from Virginia in his efforts on behalf of their grandfather’s memory.
A cousin of Sagan and his sisters, Joanie Adams of Saltsburg, was also present.
The ceremony ended with the handing over of a flag and the blowing of the taps.