Generations of Marion County residents have fought for our country. Inside the broad gates of the Historic Marion Cemetery stand memorials to service members from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and World War II as well as local law enforcement and firefighters.
The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Chapel
The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Chapel was erected in 1887. The Marion County Commissioners issued a tax levy to pay for the construction. Inside the original oak doors are inscribed names of 2,800 local men who served in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. It includes those who fought for Union and the Confederacy and honors both white military members and people of color.
“Such inclusiveness was rare for that time,” said The Ohio State University Faculty Member Sue Oakes. “Whether you were white, Native American, African American or Hispanic Americans, and whether you lived or died, you were included in this memorial.”
“The whole structure is a complete monument, dedicated to the memory of the defenders of the Republic and an honor to Marion County for thus remembering her soldiers,” the Memorial Cemetery documents state.
The chapel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Marion Cemetery donated the land. The county owns the monument. Services for veterans and others placed in the crypts are held in the chapel, though it is now closed.
“The soldiers’ names have started to deteriorate from water filtration and limited ventilation. It even has mold which is extremely dangerous,” said Angie Yazel, superintendent of the private, nonprofit Marion Cemetery. “It’s sad, but I won’t permit anyone inside until I know it is safe.”
Yatzel provided an estimate for the cost of repairs to the county commissioners in the summer of 2022.
“We have been in conversation and meetings with Mark Lecky Architects concerning restoration of the Chapel,” said County Commissioner Kerr Murray. “The restoration will be quite extensive and happen during calendar year 2023!”
Bells play hymns over the cemetery several times a day in honor of those who served. Cannons from the Civil War stand outside.
World War II Memorial
Directly across from the chapel lies the World War II Memorial. The one element that directly links the present to the past is the historic eagle that stands guard atop the pillar.
The gilded bronze eagle was cast in 1945. It originally presided over the WWII Honor Roll at the Marion County Courthouse. When the wooden Honor Roll deteriorated, both were taken down in 1970 and placed in storage. The eagle was later donated to the Marion County Historical Society, which graciously donated it back so it could again land in its rightful place in Marion County history.
A committee including veterans from World War II and the Korean War, led by Dick West and other community leaders, raised $586,000 in private and corporate donations to build the monument. It was dedicated in 2001.
A total of 5,896 names of Marion County service members were carved into the moment. Men and women are listed in alphabetical order. Stars indicate those who died while serving. More names have been added as additional records were discovered.
Law Enforcement and Firefighters Honored
Local law enforcement officers and firefighters have memorials next to each other on Delaware Avenue. Unions for police officers and firefighters pay for the lighting for these memorials. Names of the union members who were lost date back to the 1930s are listed.
Historic Marion Cemetery
Many individuals are buried or placed in crypts or niches in the 150-acre cemetery. Yatzel has worked there for 26 years.
“I’m proud to be the first woman superintendent and work with Jody Lackey, the first female association president,” Yatzel said.
The cemetery is currently raising money to erect permanent signage and replace the fence along Vernon Heights Boulevard for safety reasons; for example, to keep visitors out during icy weather until it can be salted and plowed.
For more on the Marion Cemetery, visit historicmarioncemetery.org.