Thanks to a local boy scout, families will have a much easier time finding their loved ones’ graves at Palmier Cemetery in Columbia.
Millstadt Troop 622 Boy Scout Andrew Romano recently completed his Eagle Scout project at the cemetery. In order to help people locate a specific tombstone, with more than 749 graves located on site, he used an app to set up GPS coordinates for each one.
Andrew then uploaded the GPS coordinates to findagrave.com. When someone enters a name into the website’s search function and clicks on the name, the GPS coordinates will be listed with the entry.
Andrew, 17, said he stumbled upon the idea when retired Palmier Cemetery Board trustee Vernon Ritter suggested a project at the cemetery.
“I knew this was more work than what some other scouts in my troop have attempted, but I’m excited about what this is going to do for people in the future,” he said.
During a Saturday ceremony recognizing the completion of the project, Ritter said Andrew’s work will be helpful to trustees. Ritter noted that some of the graves at the cemetery are unknown, as they don’t include a full tombstone or name but still have GPS coordinates.
“This is a godsend for us because you have no idea how many people call us,” he said.
Palmier Cemetery Board President Don Gergen said the new system of finding graves will draw people from across the country to visit their loved ones’ place of burial.
“Thanks to Andy, it’s going to be so simple,” he said. “If someone calls from New York and says, ‘My father is buried in the cemetery. How am I going to find the grave?’ I’m going to say, ‘Mr. Jones, pull up your GPS and when you get close, I’ll give you the marking.’”
Doing the project taught Andrew a lot about the history of the area, including how the 1918 Influenza Pandemic affected the county. The pandemic killed somewhere between 50 and 100 million people globally.
“I researched a lot about the area. And Vernon told me a lot of stories about the families, especially the ones that came here before the revolution,” Andrew said.
Andrew anticipates receiving his Eagle Scout rank in about a month. From there, he will continue with his troop until he turns 18 when he will go into venturing.
Venturing is operated through units of scouts and advisors who meet to plan activities for youth.
Palmier Cemetery is located off of Palmer Road just east of Route 3. It has been active on and off for more than 200 years and continues to accept burials.
The cemetery is owned by the county, which appoints a board of trustees to maintain the grounds.
Revolutionary War veterans came to the region when they were awarded land grants for their service and some – such as Swiss-born gunsmith Jacob Judy – were buried at Palmier Cemetery.