Saint John of Kanti Catholic Cemetery

Re-beautification Project of Eagle Scout Kody Kopacki, Troop 360

Background Information

In January 2020, OLBS Parishioner, Kody Kopacki contacted the church office to discuss any options available where he could perform his Eagle Scout Project in support of the parish. The church Cemetery Committee had been discussing some options on a beautification project at the Saint John of Kanti Cemetery located on Polish Town Road in New Kent County, approximately 5 miles from West Point, Virginia.

The Cemetery Committee was interested in making improvements to the area which the former Caretaker, Roger “Butch” Staskiel, had been considering prior to his becoming too ill to work on himself. Butch had served as the primary caretaker for over 30 years after relieving his father, Zigmont Roger Staskiel, who had served in that position for many years prior to Butch assuming this role. Unfortunately, Butch died just before Kody had contacted the committee for ideas for this project.

When Kody was briefed on the vision which Butch had shared, he was extremely excited and began to prepare a project plan for the cemetery which he presented to the full committee which gave their immediate approval. Kody then prepared his project proposal for his troop’s advancement committee who gave him some suggestions which he incorporated into his final submission to his Scout Council for approval.

With his Eagle Project approved by Council, Kody gave a brief report at the end of each Mass the weekend before the Church suspended all in-person services due to the COVID-19 pandemic which struck the nation. Not to be discouraged, Kody modified and tweaked his project plans until the middle/end of the summer when things began to return to a semblance of order. He also began communicating with vendors to determine costs and continue his fundraising efforts.

Once his troop began to return to normal activities, Kody, in conjunction with the committee began to schedule workdays at the cemetery when he could begin his project in earnest.

Brief History/Timeline of Project

January 2020
• Kody requests options for his Eagle Scout Project
• Kody makes his presentation to the Cemetery Committee
• Kody meets with his Troop Committee to make a presentation and get approval for his Eagle Project

February 18th, 2020
• Kody met with local Council of Knights of Columbus to share plans for his Project.
• Did not ask for donations or volunteer help at the time. Advised that he would be back with updates.

March 7th and 8th, 2020
• Put up a display of Project in back of Church and made announcement at 5:30 pm Mass, 9:00 am Mass, and Spanish Mass about plans for my Eagle Project and said if anyone would like more information or donate towards Project he would be in the back.

March 14th, 2020
• Kody Met with Mr. John McGruder from District to share his Eagle Scout plans.
• Talked with Erin Meadows from Harrisonburg VA about plans for Historical Marker. Emailed plans and kept in touch on production process.

March 15th, 2020
• Kody met with Mr. Mountcastle about possible removal of trees.
• Met with Mr. Mountcastle and Jose Velasquez at Cemetery to show what trees I planned to have removed.

March 2020 – July 2020
• COVID caused a delay on any Scout Activities but during this time period Mr. Mountcastle and Mr. Velasquez worked on cutting down trees and tree removal.

June 25th, 2020
• Kody met with his Scoutmaster Joe Hendricks, Mr. Norman from Scouts, and Mr. Ryalls so they could take a look at where my Project was and get an update on plans.

July 30th, 2020
• Attended Cemetery Committee Meeting to give update on the Project.

August 1st, 2020
• First Scout workday at cemetery.
• Cleared pathway of bushes, sticks, small trees.
• Removed flagpole to be repainted and moved to new location.

August 2020
• Sanded and repainted flagpole.
• Workers cleared up some stumps and cleared path a little better with machine.
• Mulch delivered for workday.
• Checked on land and prepped for workday.
• Picked up landscaping rocks from Aylett Sand and Gravel for workday.

August 29th, 2020
• Second workday with scouts.
• Spread gravel, placed landscaping rocks down, and worked on support for backside of crumbling steps.
• New hole dug for flagpole.

September 2020
• Historical Marker completed and picked up.
• Placed flagpole in ground with new flag and solar light.
• Went to Lowes and purchased pathway edging and plants.
• Attended Knights Meeting to give update and ask for volunteer help to put down pathway edging on September 19th.
• Emailed Father Oscar about doing a Rededication of grounds on Saturday October 24th at 10 am. This is 100 years to date and time Church that once stood there was originally dedicated.
• Met at land where Aylett Gravel delivered pathway pea Gravel for path.
• Met with Mr. Ryalls to take measurements for small Gravel parking lot.
• Installed solar light for steps.
• Welded metal into a cross

September 19th, 2020
• Workday with Knights of Columbus and Erin Hayden.
• Pathway edging installed and plants planted.

September 25th, 2020
• Check on land and prepped for workday.
• Picked up more landscaping rocks and took metal for cross and Historical Marker to be powder coated.

September 26th, 2020
• Workday had to reschedule that morning due to rain

October 2nd, 2020
• Checked on land and prepped for workday.
• Picked up powder coated metal and met with Mr. Hall to talk with him about making plaques for benches and cross.

October 3rd, 2020
• Workday with Scouts and Erin Hayden.
• Spread gravel down pathway, installed Historical Marker base in cement, plants planted.

October 10th and 11th, 2020
• Kody made an announcement at Masses about progress of Eagle Project and announced there would be a Rededication Ceremony on October 24th at 10 am for anyone who would like to attend.

October 19th, 2020
• Met Mr. Ryalls and Mr. Franzyshen from Cemetery Committee at Cemetery for gravel delivery for parking lot.
• Installed cross, Historical Sign, and solar tree lights

October 23rd, 2020
• Went to Cemetery to check on things for Rededication Ceremony and blow leaves off pathway. Placed donated Mary statue and also placed benches.

October 24th, 2020
• Dedication of Eagle Project

Photos of Project

Photo of remains of original church steps which was struck by lightning and burned in July 1935

Photo of completed project with original church steps, signs, benches, and gravel pathway
Photo of initial clearing of trees and undergrowth in area of the remains of original church steps.

Photos of Kody’s fellow scouts helping to clear debris from the cemetery grounds.

Photos of clearing area in preparation for preparing pathway to the steps.

Photos of Kody’s fellow scouts helping to distribute gravel on the pathway.
Photos of Kody welding the cross for installation at the church steps.

Photos of completed cross welded by Kody and displaying shards of stained glass from the church remnants.

Dedication of Completed Project
October 24th, 2020 at 10:00 am
(the 100th Anniversary of the original Dedication of the Saint John of Kanti Parish Church)

Kody welcoming everyone to the Dedication of his Eagle Scout Re-beautification project for St. John of Kanti Church Grounds and Cemetery.

Comments and remarks by Bob Ryalls, Representative of the Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church Cemetery Committee and Kody’s Point of Contact/Liaison with the Cemetery Committee.

Comments by Thomas L. Hollowak, a descendant of the early parishioners of St. John of Kanti and the author of “From Cracow to Polish Town: The History of a Polish Enclave in the Weir Creek Ministerial District, New Kent County, Virginia”, who graciously shared some stories about the early settlers.

Photo of Fr. Oscar Paraiso, Pastor of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church as he blesses the steps of the original church, historical marker and cross.

Photo of Fr. Oscar Paraiso, Pastor of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, escorted by Kody Kopacki, as he blesses the graves in the St. John of Kanti Cemetery.

Program for Rededication Ceremony at St John of Kanti Cemetery on October 24th, 2020

Link to video of Program for Rededication Ceremony at St John of Kanti Cemetery on October 24th, 2020.

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