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Volunteers show heartfelt thanks and gratitude to veterans

A.C. Roberts

Special to the Village News

In anticipation of Memorial Day, May 29, volunteers used elbow grease on a cleanup day at Fallbrook Pioneer Odd Fellows Cemetery, 1300 Alturas Road, May 13. Weeds are gone, grave markers are sparkling clean with words now legible, dead sticks and branches are gone, and shallow trenches will prevent mud from washing over the grave markers.

The service project was hosted by Gary and Elizabeth Ungricht. “We’re just community members who want to honor our veterans and show respect. They deserve a beautiful resting place. It’s important to have volunteers since there’s no funding for maintenance,” said the Ungrichts.

“Veterans buried there are from World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and there are 14 Civil War graves and one from the Mexican-American War. There’s a lot of history there,” said the Ungrichts. The earliest burial was H.H. Bowen in 1881.

About 50 volunteers of all ages arrived May 13. Many heard about it through their church, Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Fallbrook. The Ungrichts brought tools and supplies to share, like rakes, shovels, gloves, brooms, etc. and many people brought their own.

“Every time I come here I find a grave marker which has been buried,” said Gary Ungricht, “I unbury it and I feel like I’m giving ‘him’ life again.” Gary Ungricht mapped out the graves, and labeled who is buried there. He has almost memorized all the veterans’ names.

To preserve the memories of each veteran, Elizabeth Ungricht made a biography of each one. Genealogy is her hobby. “I don’t want any of them to be forgotten. They sacrificed to serve our country,” she said. She will be donating her research to the Fallbrook Historical Society for public display.

“This cemetery is the final resting place for many of Fallbrook’s early homesteaders and community leaders. Streets are named after them,” said the Ungrichts. “You’ve heard of Reche Road, Clemmens Lane, Pico Ave, Potter Street, and Brandon Road, right?”

Sometime before 1887, the cemetery’s land was reserved for burial ground by J.I. Durbin who homesteaded the property. In 1899, it was sold to F.W. Bartlett of Fallbrook Land and Town Company. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge #339 purchased the cemetery in 1904 and when they were no longer active in Fallbrook they bequeathed it to the Fallbrook Masonic Lodge.

“I handle both cemeteries, the Fallbrook Masonic Cemetery on Santa Margarita Drive and Odd Fellows,” said curator Kathy McGoldrick. “There’s a grounds crew who stay very busy.” A few weeks ago her crew weed-whacked all three acres of Odd Fellows Cemetery.

“Odd Fellows is sold out, there are no more plots,” said McGoldrick. “It is still open for burials for families who bought plots in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Each year on Memorial Day, a guy puts an American flag at the graveside of each veteran.”

“There are water spigots all over the cemetery, but no water comes out of them,” said Gary Ungricht. “When we come, we bring our own huge jugs of water and scrub brushes. That’s how we clean headstones and grave markers. Some headstones have been restored and others have deteriorated to the point that it’s difficult to read the inscriptions.”

“In March, youth from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints researched the history of each veteran’s grave. They shared what they learned with other volunteers, many of whom were active or retired military,” said James Ungricht, son of Gary and Elizabeth Ungricht. He is also concerned about keeping veterans’ memories alive and keeping the cemetery groomed.

When volunteers finished cleaning on the 13th, Gary Ungricht thanked them and read a prayer which he had written, “For every moment of peace, for every day of grace, for every liberty we enjoy, we owe a person, in the service of our country, our heartfelt thanks and gratitude. Today, you will personally be thanking them by cleaning their grave markers. Thank you for your time and sacrifice to make this happen.”

Fallbrook Pioneer Odd Fellows Cemetery is what its website calls it, though the site also says it is Fallbrook Odd Fellows Cemetery. Google Maps calls it Odd Fellows Community Cemetery. See https://oddfellowscemetery.com.

Contact Elizabeth Ungricht at 760-835-2496, or [email protected] if you want to assist in future cleanup days.

 

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