- Associated Press - Monday, April 18, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) - Active and retired firefighters in central Illinois are working to locate and honor the graves of 75 firefighters.

The (Bloomington) Pantagraph (https://bit.ly/1SV7Vab ) reported Bob Willis and others combed over rows of tombstones at Evergreen Cemetery in Bloomington on Saturday and marked the location of certain graves with a GPS device. Willis, a retired Bloomington firefighter, recently took over the project started by the Bloomington-Normal Firefighter Club 25 years ago. He is trying to update grave locations at several cemeteries in the area.

“I’m proud to help this group,” said Bloomington firefighter Jim Stokes. “Being a firefighter is a big family sacrifice and these men need to be remembered.”

This is the first year the project is using GPS to get the exact location of each grave. In the past, the group relied on memory, maps and photographs.

Willis said “having GPS coordinates for current graves will make the process much easier.”

Some of the graves date back to the early 1900s, while others are just a few years old.

During Memorial Day weekend, the group plans to place white flags with the fire department shield next to the graves and salute to honor their service.

Jim Schrepfer is a retired Normal firefighter and current president of the Illinois Association of Retired Fire Fighters. He said that “when people see these flags on Memorial Day, we hope they give a second thought as to who these men were and what they did for the community.”

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Information from: The Pantagraph, https://www.pantagraph.com

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