- Associated Press - Sunday, April 20, 2014

RADCLIFF, Ky. (AP) - The story of an uneducated farmer from Anderson County was buried with him in an unmarked grave in Columbia until one of his descendants unearthed the truth and fought to have him recognized.

Kentucky Veterans Cemetery-Central in Radcliff recently honored the sacrifice of Burrell L. Strange Sr., dedicating a headstone in his memory.

Strange was killed in combat during the summer of 1863 while serving with the Union Army in the U.S. Civil War. He joined the Union in 1862 at age 40, leaving his family behind to serve his country, said Ron Strange, Burrell’s great-great-grandson.

Ron Strange was combing through his family genealogy in search of his great-grandparents’ resting place when he stumbled on the acknowledgement of his great-great-grandfather. He found his great-grandparents buried in a cemetery in Anderson County and realized his great-grandfather was named Burrell Strange Jr.

“If there’s a junior, there has to be a senior somewhere,” Ron told his son, Brad.

He found his great-great-grandmother’s grave but her husband was not buried with her.

Together, Ron and his son scoured cities and towns throughout Kentucky, spending hours and driving miles to find documentation that could lead them to Burrell Strange Sr.’s grave.

He uncovered Burrell’s name on microfilm in Frankfort and found his enlistment and service records. Ron heard there were unmarked mass graves in Columbia, so he drove there and asked around, browsing the public library and linking up with a local historian in hopes of finding them.

He never located Burrell’s remains, but he believes the Union soldier was buried in one of the mass graves.

Ron Strange’s wife is buried at Veterans Cemetery-Central and he plans to be interred there upon his death. Knowing his great-great-grandfather now is remembered there, he said, is awesome.

“To this day, no one really knows where he is, but at least I know where his memory is,” Ron said.

As he started accumulating documentation about Burrell’s life and military service, Ron approached the Veterans Administration about having a stone placed in Burrell’s memory. He was rejected numerous times for inadequate documentation.

Dejected but not defeated, Ron sought the help of Chuck Heater, director of Kentucky Veterans Cemetery-Central, to secure a headstone, yet was met with denial once more.

Heater said securing a head stone is “not an easy thing to do,” as the two men could attest. Ron said he spent about a year pleading his case.

“Cemetery (administrations) just don’t allow these things to happen unless there’s a lot of evidence,” Heater said.

Ron Strange said the VA finally granted his request, which Heater said was a testament to Ron’s relentlessness.

“He doesn’t give up,” Heater said. “He keeps going until he gets it done.”

Ron Strange said the dedication ceremony - opening with the somber tones of a bagpipe - was a proud moment for the family because one of their ancestors received the recognition he deserves.

With the victory comes closure for a family unsure of what happened to their patriarch: He simply left home and never came back.

“We’re all proud of Burrell,” Ron said. “I don’t guess he was all that famous, but he served his country and did his time.”

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