The remains of nine black sailors found on a Delaware Bay beach are buried in the Union Bethel cemetery off Tabernacle Road in Lower Township, a long-forgotten burial place that recently received much-needed care.
(That marker at the cemetery compelled me to want to tell the story of how these kids from the area had a profound influence on this final resting place for so many veterans.)
“Mr. Schulte wanted to return the eloquence these veterans deserved,” said 14-year-old Nikolas Frey. An eighth grader at R. M. Teitelman Middle School, Frey spoke at the cemetery rededication ceremony May 24th.
Paul Schulte teaches science and engineering at R. M. Teitelman Middle School. Schulte heads a project called Lead the Way and advises the Builders Club which partners with the Kiwanis Club. Together they worked to restore the Union Bethel Civil War Veterans Cemetery.
When Schulte learned of the deplorable conditions of the Civil War era cemetery he began to take action. Coordinating efforts with Lower Township public works, and Senator Jeff Van Drew, Schulte let a small army of youth into battle against mother nature.
“When we got here there were dozens of trees down, some as thick as three feet,” Schulte said. “It was not out of my wheelhouse to pick up a chainsaw.” continued Schulte, who has a background in landscaping.
“On some days as many as 50 volunteers were on hand to help in the clean up. Parents with chain saws and Lower Township public works assisted with removal of the stumps.” He continued.
“As a veteran it really means a lot to me to see that those who fought with dignity and have the respect fade, to have that dignity restored by these kids,” said Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak.
Senator Jeff Van Drew and Assemblyman Andrzejczak presented the Builders Club students with proclamations commending them for their efforts.
Mayors of both Cape May and Lower Township were in attendance of the event attended by approximately 100 people. “School is not always about test scores, it’s about influencing children,” said Greg Lasher, Principal, R. M. Teitelman Middle School. “What we see here is the culmination of all the subjects these kids have taken,” Lasher said.
Trumpeter Nan LaCorte, former Teitelman band director, performed Taps as the ceremony closed.