Local veteran Paul Schwab felt it was a shame that the old cannon at the Hillsboro Cemetery was in such a state of disrepair – so he decided to do something about it.
“I’m a veteran myself, and passing the cemetery on a daily basis and seeing the thing hanging there, it was just terribly awful to see it sitting there and deteriorating like that,” he recently told The Times-Gazette.
So, he called Rick Wilkin, commander of the Hillsboro VFW Post 9094, and discussed the particulars of repairs.
While the VFW offered to pick up the check, when Schwab reached out to Todd Wilkin of Best One Tire in Hillsboro, and Wilkin in turn contacted Jamie Reed of Coyote Manufacturing in Samantha, the two men insisted on donating parts and labor.
“Jamie and I both said with all the political nonsense that’s going on in this country, it’s not a problem when veterans do as much as they did for us,” Wilkin said. “This is nothing. We’re more than happy to help out.”
“We just wanted to show support for the community and for the veterans,” Reed said.
Cemetery Manager Debbie Harsha told The Times-Gazette she was elated to see the cannon being refurbished.
“I said the cemetery would be thrilled, because it was in really bad shape,” Harsha said.
Todd Wilkin said the cannon was sorely in need of repair.
“It’s been pretty much sitting there for a long time, and the tires were dryrotted, the rain got in it and ate the tires up,” he said.
The heavy cannon had to be loaded onto a trailer and trucked to Wilkin and Reed’s respective shops for the repairs.
Wilkin obtained and installed new wheels and tires, while Reed sandblasted the cannon and re-finished its surface with a high-quality powder primer.
Harsha said not much is known about the history of the big gun, other than that it was manufactured in 1944.
Due to its age, Wilkin said it was nearly impossible to find matching wheels and tires.
“They don’t even make those wheels anymore,” he said.
Nevertheless, Wilkin was eventually able to locate a set at a scrap yard in New York, and had them shipped in.
Harsha said the cannon now looks like new.
“It was a very nice gesture and very generous of them,” Harsha said. “We certainly appreciate it.”
The group delivered the cannon to the cemetery on Friday, just in time for Veterans Day on Saturday.
“It can sit there for generations,” Wilkin said.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.