Source: Sherman Publications

Woon compiles veteran database

by Lance Farrell

August 29, 2012

There are many theories on how to best honor fallen soldiers. Historian James Woon, of Addison, may have devised one of the best ways yet.

Woon, a historian for the Lakeville Cemetery Auxiliary Society, has just donated a photo database to Addison Township identifying every American veteran buried in the historic Lakeville Cemetery. Veterans from the Revolutionary War to the present are catalogued in Woon’s labor of love.

In addition to a photo of each grave site, Woon’s database records in which section the veteran can be found, which military operation he or she served during, as well as details of the late soldier’s life.

Woon’s motive for documenting these final resting places stems from his deep respect for veterans He felt that recognition for the American veteran was flagging, and that this shouldn’t be the case, since they “gave us tomorrows that they don’t have.”

The impetus for the project developed over time. As a member of the cemetery auxiliary society, Woon often had the occasion to help in various capacities around the cemetery.

One day, as he was out in the cemetery, Woon came across an obscured grave marker.

Trimming back the brush revealed the grave of a soldier who had died at sea. This discovery opened a vista for Woon, and set him on a path to recover the graves for each soldier in the cemetery.

Woon, a 65-year young veteran from the Vietnam-era, saw the obstacle-strewn graves as an opportunity to honor the fallen soldiers. He has since cleared, photographed, and collated each of the 159 veteran graves in Lakeville Cemetery.

Visiting each site touched him deeply, and he realized a photo of each grave would prove useful. But his gift to his neighbors is much more than merely locating and clearing the graves; the great boon to Addison Township is the index he has shared as a way to document the veterans so that others can pay respects that much easier.

Woon has cross-referenced each photo with a listing in an eXcel spreadsheet. The archive is searchable and can be amended to include pertinent details that family, genealogists and military historians would like to supplement.

“I’d like visitors to be happy that they can find their relatives or can know exactly where the veteran is located in the cemetery,” Woon said

Documenting the veteran’s graves has also fulfilled a personal objective for Woon. Completing the project enabled Woon to “stop feeling sorry for myself,” he claimed. Diagnosed with cancer a few years back, the veteran directory served to “occupy my mind,” the historian said.

Woon has left a copy of the visual veteran’s directory at the Addison Township Clerk’s office, and welcomes all residents to take advantage of the resource he has gifted to the township. Additional copies are available on CD for $5.