FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A local World War I veteran has been in an unmarked grave for 33 years. This Memorial Day weekend, his legacy was finally honored properly at Greenlawn Memorial Park.
Harold Schwarz (1896-1984) was one of the few army soldiers from Allen County to go to Europe during the first World War. He was a mechanic in France.
He lived out the rest of his years in Fort Wayne and when he died, he was the last of his family. He was given an unmarked grave at Greenlawn Memorial Park.
His close family friend Nicole Procise, who Schwarz considered a granddaughter, is the one who pushed over the years to get him a grave marker of military service.
“He was so kind, so loving, so patient, funny, always there,” she said.
Schwarz passed away when she was just 17. Heartbroken, Procise didn’t visit his grave until a few years later. She was disappointed to only find the small unmarked grave.
She reached out to veterans organizations to get Schwarz a military marker, but was rejected because she was not next of kin.
This January, fate turned. Procise is an Ivy Tech professor. When she found out one of her students, Scott Mabee, was quartermaster for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2457 in New Haven she approached him.
“When class was over I just kind of mentioned that we have an old family friend,” she said. “‘Do you have any idea how I could go about getting a headstone for him?’ And Scott just took it and flew.”
It took a lot of paper work to outmaneuver the next of kin policy at Veterans Affairs, but Mabee was able to pull it off in four months.
“He was in a war that was the war to end all wars and to [we wanted to] ensure that he got the proper respect.” Mabee explained. “We were ecstatic that we were going to be able to do it over Memorial Day weekend because it’s about those individuals that fell in battle and to remember them. It’s only right to recognize one that came before us.”
Procise described the unveiling of the marker as heartfelt.
“My heart was full,” she said. “I know that he’s looking down and smiling and I can’t thank Scott enough for all of his work and I’d like to thank all of the veterans and all of our military for all that they do for our country everyday.”
The rest of Schwarz’s family, including his brother Clifford who served in World War I with him, lie at Greenlawn Memorial Park.