Editorials

Vietnam vet shows us all what it means to serve

New Baden man overhauls cemetery, erects tower honoring veterans

He designed and did the work on updating the cemetery in the middle of town and added a custom-built memorial.
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He designed and did the work on updating the cemetery in the middle of town and added a custom-built memorial.

As we honor our veterans today with flags and speeches, we hope our community takes a moment to reflect on the lesson of service offered by veteran Marvin Spaeth.

Spaeth is a Vietnam vet from New Baden whose war ended when an oil barrel exploded and seriously injured him. Two high school buddies, Theodore Walters and Ralph Wellinghoff, did not make it home.

He decided to honor them and do something to improve his community. He volunteered his nights and weekends in the town’s crumbling St. George Catholic Cemetery and New Baden Village Cemetery. He kept at it for five years.

Spaeth cleaned 663 headstones by hand with a wire brush. He removed 1,000 cubic yards of dirt and replaced it with 24-inch concrete ribbons so he could set headstones straight and keep them safe from mowers. He put in a stone entrance, paths and lights.

At the center of it all he built a 20-foot tower bearing the names of his buddies along with 328 other New Baden veterans of wars dating to the Revolution. The tower will be dedicated at 5 p.m. today.

Spaeth saw the cemeteries going to pot and he did something about it. He didn’t wait for the government. He didn’t wait for a grant. He didn’t even really wait for permission or help. For five years he quietly knelt by himself each day until the sun set, scrubbing those headstones and setting them right.

Whether we see litter on the ground, a neighbor in need or a nation in peril, we’d all be well served by following Spaeth’s example. Call it Marvin’s Motto: Service is a do-it-yourself job.

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