Scouts seek benefactor to move memorial to South Dakota

February 11, 2013
The marker in memory of Cpl. David Hevle that was found at a now-closed Western Pennsylvania Girl Scout camp. Hevle’s last name is misspelled on the marker. - Photo courtesy of Kriss Svidro

A stone tribute to a fallen Vietnam War Marine may find its way from West Bethlehem Township to South Dakota if Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania can find someone who will bear the costs of the move.

Decades ago, a Scout troop sent “care packages” to Cpl. David Hevle of Yankton, and when he died in combat nearly 46 years ago, they memorialized him with a marker and tree planted at Camp Timberlake.

The 32-acre camp is now up for sale, and the Scouts hope to find someone to foot the bill so the marker can be shipped to Hevle’s final resting place at the Garden of Memories in his hometown, roughly 1,000 miles away from Southwestern Pennsylvania.

“We would accept delivery of the marker,” wrote funeral director Paul Wintz of Wintz & Ray Funeral Home and Garden of Memories Cemetery in Yankton.

“However, we need to get the family’s permission in order to set the marker on David’s grave. I have left a message for the family, and (we are) waiting to hear back from them.”

Robert Rasel, a former Washington County resident who now lives in New Mexico, served with Hevle in Vietnam and give his name to Girl Scout leaders in this area during the war so that troop members could communicate with him. He visited the office of his congressman, Ben R. Lujan of the state’s 3rd District, to see if could get some help with moving the marker.

Pete Valencia, field representative for the congressman’s Farmington office, described the measurements of the stone as 23 inches by 13 inches by 13 inches, but no one has weighed it.

Valencia wrote letters on Rasel’s behalf, but said the congresssman for this area should also be involved.

Reapportionment placed West Bethlehem Township in the district of U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy.

“It’s really patriotic,” Valencia said of the recognition of Hevle that began last year when Girl Scout volunteer Kriss Svidro wondered why he was memorialized at Timberlake and placed a flag on his grave.

“We’re starting to honor the Vietnam veterans,” said Valencia, who described himself as a Vietnam-era U.S. Navy veteran. “They never got it before.”

Those interested in the project met Saturday at Timberlake.

“Fund development will look for in-kind donations for the delivery of the stone to South Dakota,” said Kenneth Thornton, vice president of property for Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania in Greensburg.

Gene Rasel of Washington, Robert’s brother, and a member of Marine Corps League of Washington County Detachment 1138, offered to have the organization’s honor guard perform a ceremony at the camp in the event that the stone is moved.

If Hevle’s family did not want the stone to be placed at his grave, perhaps a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Yankton would display it, he said.

Meanwhile, the story in the Observer-Reporter also caught the eye of Paul Goodburn, a former resident of Peters Township who now lives in Munising, Mich., because he’s a native of Yankton.

“The Hevle name is familiar,” Goodburn said a few weeks ago. “The name kind of struck a little spark.”

He also contacted Wintz Funeral Home in Yankton and was told Hevle’s parents, now deceased, were aware a Girl Scout troop in Pennsylvania was planting a tree dedicated to their son’s memory, but family members were apparently unaware of the marker.

As it turns out, Hevle and his parents are buried in the same cemetery as Goodburn’s family members.

“Yankton’s a small area out there,” Goodburn said. The U.S. Census placed the population of Yankton at 14,564 last year.

Although the sale of the camp is not imminent, Thornton said if the camp were to be sold before the marker could be moved, “We’ll put a contingency in it. I don’t think there is a time issue.”

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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