Russell men replace broken vet grave markers

RUSSELL, Kan. (KSNW) — At the Russell City and Lutheran cemeteries, veteran markers are placed right in the grass — making it difficult for maintenance crews to avoid them.

“What happen was they’d hit them, bend them…break them up pretty badly,” said Frank Peirano, a Lutheran Cemetery Committee member.

Peirano tried to replace the steel rods, but he kept running out. That’s when he turned to his neighbor, a mechanic, in hopes of finding a way to repair the markers.

“He came out and looked them, and he says, ‘Let’s go one step further and make them out of aluminum rods,'” said Peirano.

That’s exactly what Peirano and Larry Elsasser did. For them, this project wasn’t just about repairing grave markers. It was about honoring veterans — something near and dear to Elsasser’s heart.

“As a veteran myself, and knowing we was going to do it for veterans, I was all the way for it,” Elsasser said.

Elsasser immediately got to work. He ordered aluminum rods — knowing aluminum doesn’t rust or break like steel. Elsasser also measured and cut each rod in his workshop at his house.

Almost every day, the two men went out to the cemeteries gluing new veterans markers into the cement. They also added markers to graves that didn’t originally have a marker for the veteran.

Seven months and 810 grave markers later, the men have finally finished.

“I didn’t think we’d ever get done this soon,” said Elsasser.

As more veterans are buried, Peirano and Elsasser know this will be an ongoing project — which they said they are more than happy to continue.