While walking in the woods in Brambleton Regional Park in Ashburn about a year ago, 14-year-old Jack Gray and his father, Bart Gray, stumbled upon an old cemetery near the Brambleton Golf Course.
As residents in the nearby Broadlands neighborhood, they frequently hike in the area and had been looking for an Eagle Scout project for Jack, who is a member of Boy Scout Troop 51.
When they found the cemetery, it had fallen and sunken headstones, and many were cracked. Most were unreadable and the area was overgrown with weeds and trees, they said.
After the hike that day, Jack Gray decided to inquire about the possibility of restoring the area around the cemetery and the gravestones.
Last December, Jack Gray met with Dustin Betthauser, park manager for NOVA Parks, who was excited to hear about his interest in the cemetery.
“It was on one of our project lists to make some improvements and the timing was impeccable. It was perfect for an Eagle Scout project. It’s a sensitive area because of its historic significance,” Betthauser told the Times-Mirror.
The father-son team enlisted the help of Jim Short, who has retired from NOVA Parks and now restores gravestones with his business Graveside Guardians. Short said he was pleased to assist with the project.
“Any work in honoring and restoring a sacred area is a worthy project,” he said.
The approximately 4,200-square-foot cemetery — known as the Lyons Family Cemetery — is located in the woods between holes three and four on the golf course. It took 10 months and more than 450 hours to restore the area.
Jack Gray said he proposed, planned, resourced and spearheaded the initiative, which included restoring a stone fence, landscaping, restoring a wrought iron fence, restoring historic signage, identifying and restoring gravestones, and updating archive records.
Preliminary site work began in the spring and continued throughout the summer months.
They uncovered headstones dating from the Civil War to World War I and mounted them with stainless steel mounts. Short demonstrated how to gently clean and rid the stones of lichen.
The uncovered grave markers represent members of several Loudoun County families: Lyon, Burdine, Edwards, Havener, Hawes, Jackson, Moran, Paxson and Shryock.
Jack Gray said that according to the site’s historical marker, one of those interred at the cemetery is believed to be Private Richard “Dick” Moran. Moran, known as the “Warring Methodist,” was a member of Mosby’s Raiders and was credited with significant contributions to local actions in the region during the Civil War.
“It was a lot of work. The stones were black or brown and now they are white. There is a big difference in the color. It now looks like something the community can be proud of,” Jack Gray said.
He said the hardest part was the paperwork and prep work for a one-day volunteer event with a group of fellow scouts. The rest of the project was completed over the course of the summer with the help of his family.
“It was so gratifying to give back to the community. And thanks to Jim, those headstones look amazing. We felt like archaeologists uncovering artifacts,” Bart Gray said.
Betthauser is grateful to the Gray family for all of their hard work, especially Jack who took an idea, created goals and moved through challenges and objectives to make it come to fruition.
“Kudos to him. The end product is a great thing,” he said.