Thanks to Isaiah Fawson’s Eagle Scout project, researchers of loved ones can find the exact location of any of the 6,200-plus headstones in Iola’s Highland Cemetery.
Fawson, 17, a junior at Iola High School, was awarded his Eagle Scout rank during a ceremony Jan. 13.
It took nine months to complete the service project — photographing and uploading photos of most of the cemetery’s headstones.
From November 2014 until July 2015, Fawson coordinated the effort, first to photograph each of the headstones, then to upload the photos onto the billiongraves.com website.
From there, the photos were made available for others to put names and biographical information with each stone.
“A lot have been added,” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve checked.”
A major component of the service project required Fawson to involve others, and not just do the work himself.
“I took only a few of the pictures myself,” he said. “I recruited lots of my friends, and people from church.”
The effort required more than just snapping random pictures.
Fawson mapped out entire sections of the cemetery, and each picture had to be done with a GPS-equipped device. (Most smartphones have that capability.)
Finally, the lighting had to be just right so that the deceased’s name was easy to depict.
“Some of the older stones were kind of faded, and it was hard to see the letters,” he said. “Some were partially buried. There were one or two that weren’t headstones at all, but were cement blocks with crude lettering.
“I thought it might go fast, but it got started slower than I thought it would because we couldn’t get the GPS to work right on some of the cameras,” he said. “But once we got the GPS working, it went pretty fast.
A member of Iola Boy Scout Troop 166, Fawson said the club has provided him lots of unique experiences and that he enjoys helping younger Scouts work toward their merit badges.
Scouting is a natural fit for Fawson, an avid outdoorsman.
“I like the camping trips,” he said. “Those are always fun.”
Fawson is also active with high school sports and his activities with his church.
Troop 166 is sponsored by the Iola Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His scoutmaster is Gerald Adair of LaHarpe.
Isaiah is the son of Iolans Nathan and Robyn Fawson.
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