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Gig Harbor woman works to give Civil War soldiers their due respect at cemetery

Kathy Veasey is improving the graves of Civil War soldiers buried at the Gig Harbor Cemetery. She obtained a marble monument and organized a ceremony at the grave of Hannibal Bickford.
Kathy Veasey is improving the graves of Civil War soldiers buried at the Gig Harbor Cemetery. She obtained a marble monument and organized a ceremony at the grave of Hannibal Bickford. phaley@thenewstribune.com

Gig Harbor resident Kathy Veasey is using her interest in genealogy to bring headstones to Civil War soldiers in unmarked graves in Gig Harbor Cemetery.

Veasey’s interest led to her discovery of five Civil War soldiers in unmarked graves. However, it’s not just soldiers she looks for.

“In doing genealogy of the different people that are buried there, I would find out that some of them were in the military and some of them were a farmer or a salesman, or whatever they were,” said the 71-year-old Veasey, who has lived in Gig Harbor for 11 years.

Originally, she didn’t set out to find Civil War soldiers. Veasey decided to start researching people buried in Gig Harbor Cemetery because she feels connected to it, she said.

It’s close to her home and it’s a very nice, private-like cemetery, she said. Happening upon the unmarked graves of soldiers is what started Veasey’s interest in making sure they received headstones.

“The emphasis that I have right now is primarily (that) I’m going to try to get headstones for the Civil War veterans that are buried in Gig Harbor Cemetery, but I’m just gonna do them one at a time,” she said.

She identified and obtained a headstone for one soldier so far, a Union soldier named Hannibal Bickford, which was placed in the cemetery on Oct. 7.

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Kathy Veasey is improving the graves of civil war soldiers buried at the Gig Harbor Cemetery and she recently organized this ceremony at the newly re-done gravesite of Hannibal Bickford. Courtesy

Through her research, Veasey was able to find out that Bickford was born in Vermont in 1833 and served the Union in Minnesota, and relocated to Washington state, where he died in 1908.

To further help research her own genealogy, she joined the Daughters of the American Revolution Elizabeth Forey chapter about five years ago and discovered she has a patriot ancestor from the American Revolution, and several others she has traced to fighting as Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.

The DAR is a nonprofit, nonpolitical volunteer women’s service organization, founded in 1890. The organization is open to anyone who may be interested regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background, and it is based only on the fact that members have ancestors who contributed to the Revolutionary War.

The current regent for the chapter, Muriel Parrish, is excited about the work Veasey is doing in the cemetery, saying that researching genealogy helps history and the people in it come alive.

“When she did all the research for Hannibal Bickford, now she considers him like a friend,” Parrish said.

DAR does a service project every October, Parrish said, and getting the headstone for Bickford was the chapter’s project this year.

DAR members are hoping to continue this for the next four or five years, to get headstones for all the unmarked graves of Civil War soldiers, she said.

Unassuming, hard working, cheerful, honest, dedicated, and energetic are just a few words Parrish uses to describe Veasey.

Parrish originally joined the Mary Ball chapter with her daughter in 2002 in Tacoma, and was later appointed to regent for the Elizabeth Forey chapter.

Veasey’s interest in genealogy started in the early 1970s, and she continued to research her own and other’s ancestry after she moved to the Pacific Northwest.

“My oldest sister and I have worked on genealogy since our kids were little in the early 70s,” she said.

Although it was a hobby in her early days, Veasy admits “it’s like an obsession now.”

More of her research on Hannibal Bickford can be found by searching for his name on findagrave.com.

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