Oswald earns Eagle Scout Award

Ryan Oswald, 17, stands in front of Sacred Heart Cemetery in Monticello. Oswald earned his Eagle Scout Award by transferring the paper cemetery records online. (Photos submitted)

This is the view of the Sacred Heart Cemetery online at www.namesinstone.com. Oswald created an account for the cemetery and spent countless hours inputting the information. Anyone from around the world can find family history through his Eagle Scout project.

In order to transfer the Sacred Heart Cemetery records online, Oswald sought the help of family, friends and fellow Boy Scouts. They spent several days combing the cemetery grounds to verify the names, birth and death dates to make sure the record were accurate.
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Now that Ryan Oswald has graduated from high school, he can mark another milestone off his list, earning his Eagle Scout Award.

     “I had a hard deadline of earning it before my 18th birthday,” Oswald said. Well, he turns 18 on June 12, so he accomplished that goal.

     Oswald, of Monticello, started his Eagle Scout project in February 2017. “It seems like it’s been a long time ago,” he said thinking back.

     He completed it in early May, and was able to include this accomplishment on scholarships applications going into his first year of college.

     “It was done before graduation, which helps,” he said.

     His project turned out to be more time consuming than he initially thought. Oswald’s grandparents are buried at Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery, located on River Road. Being familiar with the cemetery, Oswald wanted to turn the outdated, handwritten cemetery records into an online database.

     “I wanted to help the church in some way,” he said.

     After another Boy Scout tossed around the same idea in regards to Oak Wood Cemetery, Oswald decided to take a similar approach with the Sacred Heart Cemetery on a smaller scale.

     Thanks to Marv Kelchen, Oswald got his hands on a copy of the official cemetery records.

     “They were hard to read and took a while to find the stone you were looking for,” he said.

     The names and dates were hand-written, and many were hard to read.

     So, before he could transfer the records online, Oswald recreated the record book through a computer program. He had his book printed and bound, something for the church to keep on hand for future reference.

     “I then used my record book to create the online map,” he said.

     Oswald himself and several family members and Scouts (about a dozen people) spent a few days at the cemetery, making sure the names and dates of every gravestone matched the record book. With roughly 400 stones, they spent three hours a day focusing on the task at hand.

     What took the most time was inputting each name, birth date and death date into the online database, found at www.namesinstone.com. Oswald had to create an account for Sacred Heart Cemetery, which was not listed in the database until now.

     “The site allows anyone to create an account,” he said. “It wasn’t too hard to figure out the website.”

     Oswald was hoping to have the project completed by Veterans Day in 2017, but the project took more time than he planned.

     In all, he spent almost 90 hours working on his Eagle Scout project, half of that time just typing in the records online.

     “That was a big part of the project,” Oswald said.

     This type of project really didn’t cost much money at all. Other than putting the cemetery record books together, Oswald said everything else was free. He paid for the books out-of-pocket, preferring not to fundraise for such a small amount of money.

     “This was pretty cheap as far as other Eagle Scout projects go,” he said.

     He said if someone is doing online research for family history/genealogy, the database is the perfect place to locate family gravestones.

     “It also helps the cemetery board with their records because it’s easier to read,” Oswald said of his new record book.

     Oswald said he wanted to thank the cemetery board for access to the original record book, and for permission to update it as well.

     “It all went pretty well,” he said.

     He said having everything online also makes it easier for people to update along the way.

     Now that his Eagle project is complete, Oswald said he can breathe a sigh of relief.

     “Being an Eagle Scout holds a sense of honor,” he said. Oswald named several well-known people such as astronaut Neil Armstrong who were Eagle Scouts as well.

     He said this project taught him how to be a better leader, to stay organized and focused.

     “I was kind of organized before, but this forced me to be a little more organized,” he said.

     Oswald has been in Scouts for about 11 years, working his way through Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. His parents, Lisa and Dean Oswald, are both active in Scouts, with Lisa serving as treasurer of Troop 66.

     Oswald said being in Scouts has allowed him to try different things he wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do: camping in tents, canoeing, archery and shooting.

     In the fall, Oswald plans to attend the University of Northern Iowa. He plans to major in actuarial science (insurance math).

     “I love math,” he said, plain and simple.



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