Austin Erich, 17, and senior in the Ridgway Area Middle/High School can remember attending a Boy Scouts of America assembly when he was in kindergarten. His father, Chris Erich, also said he remembered the day that his son came running in the house saying, “I want to be an Eagle Scout.”

He is now an Eagle Scout with Ridgway’s BSA Troop 93. He spearheaded the repair of 55 veteran headstones of the Civil War at the Ridgway cemeteries of Pine Grove, Saint Leo, and Thayer.

As Austin Erich looked at the headstone of a veteran from the Civil War, he saw much more than a slab of concrete–he saw a war hero who deserved to be remembered, and a piece of art that should shine.

But when Erich was putting flags on the gravestones, he found that they were in poor shape and was saddened by their condition.

Ridgway Troop 93 Eagle Scout Austin Erich next to one of the Civil War veteran headstones he restored. (Brianne Fleming)

The 17-year-old decided to do something about it and he is being honored with a special ceremony after all his hard work on a two-year project.

Austin told his father that on some of the gravestones you couldn’t even read the names.

“This isn’t right for a veteran to lose recognition,” he said.

The headstones needed cleaning and repairs, Erich said. Seventeen of them needed new footers, so they installed 23 new markers. St. Marys Monuments helped to dig two headstones by machine. The remaining 11,840 pounds of cement was mixed and dug by hand.

He raised over $7,000 to complete the project—replacing footers and new markers.

Erich also researched 68 local Civil War veterans for a book to record his achievements, which he began in 2017.

“He would always go up to them and shake their hands,” Erich’s dad said.

A celebration for Erich and his project is scheduled to take place later this month when the hardworking teen plans to read the names and donors of the Civil War veterans project and view the book.

Thank you, Austin for that. What a beautiful act of kindness, to mention nothing of all the hard work involved. Thank you, young man, and a great job!

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