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Local scout helps clean up historic cemetery for Eagle project

Tom Anderson is one of many volunteers who helped make Ryan Mayr's Eagle Scout project possible. He's shown here using a leaf blower to help clean off a grave. Graves also had grass the grass around them trimmed. Anderson said in this case the old saying "many hands make light work" was true as he and other volunteers worked Thursday, Sept. 6. 1 / 3
The fence around this cemetery plot had been overgrown with weeds before a team of volunteers organized by Boy Scout Ryan Mayr cleaned it off. 2 / 3
Boy Scout Ryan Mayr stands in the historic cemetery of the Kinnickinnic Historic Church, where he and a group of volunteers he organized cleaned up the cemetery in advance of the church's planned 150th anniversary celebrations, set for Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 15-16. This cleanup was Mayr's Eagle Scout Project. Gretta Stark / RiverTown Multimedia.3 / 3

Hudson Middle School eighth-grader Ryan Mayr has been a Scout since he joined Cub Scouts at 8 years old.

He said achieving Eagle status has been his goal since the very beginning.

"Really just since I started Scouts that's just really been my goal," Mayr said, "and really every Scout's goal to get to Eagle."

In order to receive the Eagle Scout award, boys have to have been a Life Scout for at least six months, demonstrate the Scout spirit by living the Scout oaths and Scout law, earn 21 merit badges, have a troop responsibility for at least six months, and do an Eagle Scout project which needs to be approved by a scoutmaster conference and an Eagle Board of Review.

Mayr's first project plan did not work out. Nor did his second. Then, he saw a story in the newspaper about the Kinnickinnic Historic Church celebrating its 150th anniversary.

Mayr said he and his family drove past the church's cemetery, and saw that it could use some cleaning up.

"We're thinking, 'OK this might be something,'" Mayr said.

He reached out to the church and representatives were thrilled with his plan to clean up the cemetery grounds for the church's 150th celebration.

Mayr said his dad's friend was buried in the Kinnickinnic Cemetery.

"I just wanted to help out," said Mayr of his choice to clean up the cemetery for his Eagle project, "and my dad's friend died last April, so we always had that cemetery in mind."

Mayr had two crews of 15 people volunteer to take two shifts — morning and and afternoon — on Thursday, Sept. 6, to clean up the cemetery.

"The cemetery is really one of the real jewels of River Falls, but it's not well known," said Ellen Rider, a member of the Historic Church Board.

She said Mayr's Eagle Scout project worked out well, with a good turnout of volunteers, including herself, coming in to clean up the cemetery just in time for the church's 150th anniversary celebration Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 15-16.

They removed overgrown vines climbing the fence, cleaned out a garden/memorial, planted mums, balanced tipping gravestones, trimmed trees, cleaned up a wrought-iron fence around a plot, and more.

Mayr said it all went much faster than he thought. It was also a great learning opportunity.

"Getting together an entire project can be hard, and finding a project is even harder," he said.

But, when the project was finished, it was worth all the work.

Mary's parents, Jackie and Thomas Mayr, were proud of their son.

"This is just wonderful that he has an interest in serving others," Jackie said. "Hopefully he'll continue that the rest of his life."

Mayr's dad, Thomas, spoke of his son's nature.

"Ryan has always been a gentle giant among his peers. He has an intensity for his work that I see in few others his age," Thomas said. "One of the items in the Scout Law is 'reverence.' What I feel he achieved today with his project is reverence for those who have passed on before us.

"Hopefully that reverence will be able to be passed on to all those who visit the Old Kinnickinnic Cemetery and permeate their lives to make the world a better place."

After he's finished with the project, Mayr will need to present it and have it approved by a board of review, and won't be able to receive his Eagle Scout award until after Sept. 23.

Mayr is a member of Troop 9905 out of Hudson, which is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Hudson.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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