Decorations Honor Maplewood Cemetery Vets

The wreath-laying at Maplewood Cemetery in New Lenox took many happy hands. (Photos by Karen Haave)
The wreath-laying at Maplewood Cemetery in New Lenox took many happy hands. (Photos by Karen Haave)

By Karen Haave

One hundred forty-five military members buried at Maplewood Cemetery in New Lenox got some overdue recognition recently, courtesy of Wreaths for Veterans.

Not to be confused with Wreaths Across America set for December 17 at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, Wreaths for Veterans volunteers Tammy Levey and Skip Minger raised money to buy fresh pine festoons like those they have placed on the graves at the national cemetery for the past eight years.

But this was the first time the group found themselves marking the graves of Maplewood veterans.

Tammy Levey decided to research the number of military graves at the cemetery after realizing that ALNC opened just two decades ago, and many were buried locally before that time.

She was tireless in her pursuit, walking through the cemetery to identify military headstones. Some are over a century old. One is the grave of a soldier who fought in the War of 1812.

Each one now has an attractive bronze marker, as well as a red-ribboned holiday wreath.
“I was inspired by my grandpa, John Logan,” she explained. “He was a veteran, he was in World War II and Korea. He passed away in 2007. He was a Seabee in the Navy.”

Others in the group have similar connections to the military. Levey’s co-chairman, Minger is a Vietnam veteran. New Lenox Fire Chief Steve Engledow, now retired, is not a veteran, but his dad Harry Engledow was and is buried in the section of the cemetery where the wreaths were placed. Kevin Molloy is not a veteran, having missed the draft by four months, but his older brother is a Vietnam-era vet, and his father served in Korea.

They, and others in Wreaths for Veterans, have made it their mission to remember and honor veterans by laying Remembrance Wreaths on the graves of America’s fallen heroes.

Levey is proud of the dedication she sees among her colleagues.

“Steve Engledow is the one who got us all involved,” she said.

“He is also the President of the fire board at the New Lenox Fire Protection District. He is a member of the VFW and one of my heroes. He is always committed to helping people and spends countless hours volunteering for several veterans organizations.

“Joe Levey is not just my amazing husband, but an integral part of our organization. Non-profit organizations have a lot of behind-the-scenes bookkeeping, which he is the brains behind.

“He is always right there at the cemeteries placing the wreaths with us. Even after retiring from the Palos Heights Fire Department, he still has a full-time position at a company that sells fire equipment and is also on the New Lenox Fire Protection board as a trustee.

“I have to say that he is the true definition of a proud American.”

New Lenox businessman Kevin Molloy, meanwhile, is “one of our biggest financial supporters.

“This organization,” she added, “has really helped me to see what an incredible blessing it is to live in the greatest country in the world! God has really blessed America and this organization gives me the opportunity to honor those who gave so much for our freedom.”

Molloy said he is gratified to be able to support Wreaths For Veterans.

“I have had a great relationship with our veteran community for the past six years since beginning a free Veterans Breakfast in 2016 that is held at Roadhouse 52 in Manhattan on the second Monday of each month from 7-8:30 a.m.,” he said.

Molloy said Minger and Tammy Levey approached him to become involved both physically and financially with Wreaths Across America, the VFW Bingo Night in New Lenox and most recently the Wreaths For Veterans.

“I will be looking to bring the few cemeteries in Manhattan into the Wreaths For Veterans next year,” Molloy said.

“I love each and every free veteran’s breakfast where Kez Kural, the owner of Roadhouse 52 and I serve over 35 veterans at each event. This breakfast has grown by the month, and two other State Farm agents now hold one in their towns doing the same.”

Molloy added that Tammy Levey should get most of the credit for getting Wreaths For Veterans off the ground.

“Tammy is an amazing lady who spent over twenty-five hours going headstone to headstone to identify each veteran, and many times until it was dark out and many times in below freezing temperature,” he said.

“As for Skip Minger, when Skip comes in looking for money, I have my checkbook open and start writing the check before he asks. He’s that kind of guy.”

Karen Haave is a freelance reporter.

Karen Ruttenberg and Kathy English were among the Wreaths for Veterans volunteers who placed wreaths on military members’ graves at Maplewood Cemetery. (Photos by Karen Haave)

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