News: Colby (GAR & WRC markers - 2017)

Transcriber: Robert Lipprandt 

Surnames: Axtman, Decker, Kelley, LaSee, Mateer, O’Brien

----Source: The Tribune - Phonograph (Abbotsford, WI) 5/31/2017

Civil War markers get new sheen

By: Kevin O’Brien

Thanks to the efforts of a few local volunteers and businesses, some of the very first military veterans ever buried in the Colby Memorial Cemetery have newly refurbished grave markers honoring their service in the Civil War.

Earlier this year, Bryce Kelley of Thrivent Financial in Colby spoke to the cemetery board about the project, which also included the work of Jim Decker at Decker Automotive, workers at All Metal Stamping in Abbotsford and Iraq War veteran Pat Mateer.

“It’s just a group of guys who want to respect our men and women that wore the uniform” Kelley said. “Hopefully, by the time this is all said and done, these will last another 40 to 50 years and someone will want to pick up the cause then.”

When the project is finished, over 40 markers from the Gran Army of the Republic (GAR) and the Women’s Relief Corps (WRC) will have been sandblasted and repainted. In addition to accumulating rust, several of the markers were broken or damaged, so some welding work was also needed.

The markers were powder-coated to extend the lifespan of the new paint jobs. Most of them were painted black, but the bronze makers were clear-coated to let the color show through.

A grant from Thrivent Financial paid for the sandblasting and painting to be done at Decker Automotive, and All Metal Stamping donated staff to clean and powder paint 20 of the markers.

Kelly said the idea for the project came when he and Decker were visiting the grave of Jim’s brother, Robert, who was killed in the Vietnam War. They notice a lot of the older veterans grave markers were in poor shape after years of neglect.

While Decker and Mateer have direct connections to military service, Kelley said he saw it as his “civic duty” to help with the project. He said the volunteers may be willing to help refurbish more grave markers at other cemeteries in the future.

Steve Axtman, general manager of All Meal Stamping, said the powder coating project is just one of many ways the company has supported local veterans.

Axtman said the company also provide custom made steel and powder painted shelving to American Legion Post 519, and worked with Loos Manufacturing in Colby through the Yellow ribbon program or the new Persian Gulf memorial at The Highground Veterans Memorial Park in Neillsville.

“The LaSee family, as well as our president, Ryan LaSee, supports and encourages our efforts within the local communities through these types of donations of time and materials as well as allowing me personally to participate in military funeral rites during the standard work week with the American Legion Post 519 in Stetsonville,” Axtman said.

History of the cemetery

The Grand Army of the Republic was founded in Decatur, ILL., in 1866 as a fraternal organization of Civil War veterans who fought for the Union Army, Navy and Marines. Civil War veterans who settled in the Colby area started the Isaac N. Earl Post 112 in 1883. A local Women’s Relief Corps was also founded that year.

GAR Post 112 was officially dissolved in 1938, seven years after the area’s last remaining Civil War veteran, Albert Becherer, passed away at the age of 92.

Becherer and the other Union veterans buried in the Colby Memorial Cemetery came to the area from a wide variety of backgrounds, including several who were born in Europe and ended up fighting in the Civil War as newly arrived immigrants.

A registry of Civil War veterans buried at local cemeteries, maintained by the Clark County History Buffs website, includes a wealth of information about these veterans, including many of their obituaries from old issues of the Colby Phonograph.

Several of these obituaries from the 1920’s include the phrase: “Another name is stricken from the ever-lessening roll of early pioneers and Civil War veterans.”

For information about the Civil War veterans buried at local cemeteries, go to



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