Beaufort National Cemetery Seeks New Leadership
Beaufort National Cemetery is located in Beaufort County on Port Royal Island within the city limits of Beaufort, South Carolina.
The cemetery best distinguished by a landscape plan in which the burial sections are arranged in the shape of a half-circle with roads arranged like the spokes of a wheel.
Beaufort National Cemetery is without a local director after its previous leader took a job in New York earlier this year.
Craig Arsell directed operations at the historic burial ground for a year, drawing praise for improving the appearance and morale on the cemetery grounds off Boundary Street.
Arsell is now assistant director of Long Island National Cemetery, according to his Facebook posts.
In a post, Arsell said New York is home and a chance to reconnect with old friends and family.
Jim Taft, chief of operations for the National Cemetery Administration’s Southeast District office in Atlanta, is the cemetery’s acting director. Taft said Friday he is in the process of interviewing director candidates and doesn’t have a timeline for a hire.
Taft said Arsell did good work, though their paths crossed only briefly.
Arsell recognized iron in the water was staining headstones at Beaufort National Cemetery and received permission to drill deeper for cleaner water, said Art Foster, chairman of the Veterans Cemetery Committee of Beaufort.
He improved landscaping near the cemetery entrance, planted trees to block unsightly views in the back of the cemetery and required a sharply dressed staff, Foster said.
“He really changed a lot around there and got everybody moving,” Foster said. “You put in a good leader and things shape up fast.”
This past August, Arsell said he hoped the cemetery could become a bigger part of the community and noted an outpouring of volunteers for cemetery events last year.
“As they say, the cemetery is for the living,” Arsell said in August. “If I can take a place that is usually somber and has sorrow and make it a place where people feel good about it, that we can work together with the community…we’re going to create history by doing things like that.
I’ve never seen more patriotic people than South Carolina, especially in Beaufort County.”
Beaufort National Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.
Monuments and Memorials
The 1870s Union Soldiers monument was erected in honor of 174 unknown Union dead buried at the cemetery; it is marble set on a brick base.
A large granite monument dedicated to “the Defenders of American Liberty Against the Great Rebellion” was erected during the 1880s.
Blue Star Memorial was installed in 1998. Sponsored by the Beaufort Garden Club in cooperation with the Garden Club of South Carolina, the marker is a tribute to American men and women who have served, are serving, or will served their county.
Its symbolism is linked to World War II, when families of service members displayed in a home window a square flag decorated with a blue star to signify that a loved was in the armed forces.
The “Fighting Fourth” Marine Monument was erected and dedicated in 1995 by the Fourth Marine Division Assn, Carolina Chapter No. 26.
In 1997, a memorial in honor of Confederate soldiers interred at the cemetery was installed.
Medal of Honor Recipients
Private First Class Ralph H. Johnson, (Vietnam War) Company A, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division (Rein), FMF. Near Quan Duc Valley, Republic of Vietnam, March 5, 1968 (Section 3, Grave 21).
Captain (then Staff Sergeant) John James McGinty, III, (Vietnam War) 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division. Republic of Vietnam July 18, 1966 (Section D, Grave 703).
Colonel Donald Conroy, “The Great Santini” is interred in Section 62, Grave 182.
Nineteen Union Soldiers of the all black Massachusetts 54th and 55th Infantry were removed from Folly Island, S.C., and reinterred here with full military honors on Memorial Day, May 29, 1989.
Master Sergeant Joseph Simmons, 25th Infantry Buffalo Soldiers, World War I and II, fought on three fronts in France, and was awarded the Legion of Honor Medal by the Republic of France (The French Legion of Honor Medal is equivalent to the United States Medal of Honor), died Sept. 24, 1999 (21 days prior to his 100th birthday).
He is buried in Section 2, Grave 2. Gerd Reussel, German World War II Prisoner of War, Section PB61, Grave 18.