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The Times
  • Medal of Honor recipient’s grave restored by area veterans

  • For more than 60 years, the grave of a local Civil War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient in Rural Grove (Wilcox) Cemetery sat neglected, the headstone crushed and foliage covering the site.

    Michael Sportello, a veteran himself, after realizing the condition of the grave of David L. Bass, contacted Robin Prinzhorn, president of the New York State Historic Cemetery Preservation Society.

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  • For more than 60 years, the grave of a local Civil War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient in Rural Grove (Wilcox) Cemetery sat neglected, the headstone crushed and foliage covering the site.
    Michael Sportello, a veteran himself, after realizing the condition of the grave of David L. Bass, contacted Robin Prinzhorn, president of the New York State Historic Cemetery Preservation Society.
    “The memorial was Michael’s idea and with the help of a grant and volunteers, it was put together in the past couple of months,” said Prinzhorn during Thursday’s dedication ceremony.
    With the help of Judith H. Reilly, executive director of Compeer of the Mohawk Valley, Sportello said he applied for and received a $3,500 grant from Home Depot to fund the project.
    Once the volunteer group received the funding he said they were able to work on clearing the wooded area around the cemetery and uncovering the hidden graves. Volunteers, he said, helped to reset stones, clear trees and build the Navy inspired memorial to frame the site.
    Sportello on Thursday thanked all those that made the project possible, including Home Depot, the Mohawk Valley Community College Student Nurses’ Association, the West Hill Social Club, the Veterans Outreach Center, Little Falls Mayor Robert Peters, Little Falls American Legion Post No. 31, Ilion Elks Lodge No. 1444, Ron Bunce and his crew and the Military Order of the Voodoo Association.
    “This project is a long time coming and there is so much more we would like to do, but we can’t because the church has put a halt on our plans,” said Sportello, adding he stumbled upon the grave site about a year ago. “There are many Civil War veterans back here in this cemetery and they shouldn’t be cast aside. If it wasn’t for them, we would not be here today.”
    Besides Bass, the 5.5 acre Rural Grove Cemetery is the resting place of 18 other Civil War veterans, two World War veterans and approximately 150 citizens.
    “This is a great thing that members from our community have organized, and it’s a shame they cannot go any further with their plans,” said Peters referencing Sportello’s comments that a property dispute with Holy Trinity Lutheran Church will not allow volunteers to make further improvements.
    More than 20 Bass family members were present for the rededication ceremony on Thursday, many of them emotional as they saw the new and improved grave site for the first time.
    “If you saw the grave site before you would understand how I feel. This is really something,” said Barbara Bass-Jones. “Nobody ever noticed the grave site and nobody ever recognized the fact that he had a Medal of Honor, until now. This means a lot to us.”
    “David Bass definitely needed to be honored,” said Sportello, adding he still has $200 in grant money that he plans to use for a memorial in Ilion. “He is a medal of honor recipient. He is a hero of heroes and that’s how this project evolved and got finished.”

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