In the photo above: Jim Wiens, Doric Products; Scott Stults, Barkley Funeral Chapel; and Mark Bolander, Rex Vault Service attended Pvt. Harold Poulter’s ceremony on June 4 at the Janesville cemetery.

By Joe Weigel, owner of Weigel Strategic Marketing

It was Sir William Gladstone who said, “Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals.”  This quote was never more evident than in June 2024 in central Illinois with the interment of Pvt. Harold Poulter.

Born in Charleston, Illinois in 1921, Poulter enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 and served in the European Theater during the Second World War.  Throughout his service, Poulter displayed remarkable courage and dedication, earning multiple medals, including the prestigious Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Tragically, on Feb. 8, 1945, Poulter lost his life while engaging enemy forces in a wooded area along Germany’s border with Luxembourg. Despite the efforts of his comrades, his body could not be recovered and Poulter remained unrecovered. In 1951, human remains, military clothing, a helmet, and ammunition were found in a wooded area southeast of Biesdorf, Germany.

In September 2022, the remains were exhumed for DNA analysis and compared to soldiers known to have been lost in the Biesdorf area.  On Jan. 17, 2024, it was announced the remains had been identified as Pvt. Harold Oscar Poulter of Charleston and were to be returned to the United States for a proper burial.

Shortly thereafter, Lynn Graves, Poulter’s niece, was contacted by the military liaison about her uncle’s return.  She then telephoned Scott Stults, owner of the Barkley Funeral Chapel, to help plan the return and interment of the remains.  Stults agreed to accompany Graves during her initial meeting with the military regarding the return.

“I was just blown away with the amount of effort and the details involved in bringing a veteran’s body back,“ commented Stults.  “I was honored that Lynn reached out to me.  And I told her that we needed to do this funeral in a big way and celebrate her uncle as a hero.  She replied ‘Yes, we should celebrate his return, but you must help me’”.

As a veteran, Poulter was entitled to full military death benefits including a casket and a military marker.  But what about all the other costs associated with a military funeral?  “I assured Lynn that we could do a proper send-off for a hero like her uncle and the costs to the family would be minimal – as I would be donating my services,” stated Stults.  “And I told her I knew of another company that I thought would love to be involved.”

The carapace for Private Poulter’s Doric vault was personalized to reflect his patriotic valor.

At that point, Stults contacted Mark Bolander of Rex Vault Service to ask for his assistance.  Bolander jumped at the chance to be involved and agreed to provide the vault and the tent service at the cemetery.  Doric Products in Marshall, IL also became involved in the burial, including preparing the personalized carapace that graced the top of the vault.

“We were only too happy to be involved with this event,” commented Mark Bolander, President, Rex Vault Service.  “I told Scott we would take care of everything on the cemetery side – from the vault to the graveside service.  And I knew the Doric Products would also be honored to help out.”

On June 4, the procession to the cemetery started at the Barkley Funeral Chapel in Greenup, and crowds were waiting along the route to pay their respects. Most, if not all of them, weren’t even alive when Poulter was killed in action, including his remaining relatives.  Hundreds of people crowded the town square in Toledo, Illinois (a city of only 1200 residents) and hundreds more at the cemetery in Janesville to send off the fallen hero.

At the cemetery, Poulter was buried with full military honors, including a gun salute and the playing of taps.  His casket was interred in a Doric Athenian stainless steel vault and buried alongside his parents in the Janesville Cemetery.

“It was a moving event – very humbling and I was glad that we were able to play a meaningful role in the ceremonies for Private Poulter,” commented Bolander.  “I know the government is still trying to get other missing soldiers home like Private Poulter.  They all deserve to be celebrated as heroes with a proper burial.”

“At times, we all get sidetracked with politics – but that day in June, we weren’t Democrats and Republicans – we were all American citizens,” added Stults.  “It’s somewhat ironic that it takes a guy coming home after almost 80 years to unite us.”

About DoricDoric Products, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of burial vaults, cremation vaults and memorialization products.  Distributed by highly trained professionals throughout the United States and Canada, Doric offers burial vaults of exceptional quality, value and strength.  Although Doric is best known as a leader in traditional concrete burial vaults, the Classic Metal Vaults division features one of the largest selections of air-seal metal vaults available anywhere.  The people of Doric Products are dedicated to providing outer burial enclosures that honor a loved one’s memory while giving family members comfort and peace of mind.

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