Civil War veteran's original gravestone finds its resting place

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TOWN OF LENA – Grave markers can be simple or elaborate, telling a story of who lies where.

Each day, the number of surviving veterans dwindles. But pieces of history – like tombstones – can pop up and connect us with veterans and conflicts long ago; even those against our own countrymen.

Pvt. J. Kramer never had a problem of a missing grave marker.

"We went to look for records; there were no records in the cemetery,” said Beverly Doucette, a member of the Marinette County Cemetery Preservation group. “The sextant of the cemetery came out to see if there was an actual burial in there – there was no burial there."

"There" was where Doucette unearthed Mr. Kramer's homemade Civil War grave marker in the Peshtigo cemetery about a year and a half ago. But who – and more importantly where – was Pvt. Kramer?

Two months of searching led the group to St. Charles Cemetery in Lena, 20 miles away in Oconto County. But the problem was he had two of them, in two separate places.

"When we found the family – we of course found generations, great-grandchildren, great-nieces and nephews,” said Doucette. “But within a week we were put in touch with a much closer relative."

More like closer relatives – as in plural. One of them is Manny Kramer Kobes of Green Bay.

"I am considered a granddaughter and there are four more of us," said the 11th youngest of 14 kids.

"(A granddaughter) of Joseph Kramer?" I asked.

“That’s right,” she replied.

On this Memorial Day, with roughly 200 people in attendance, Joseph Kramer received a proper ceremonial burial with four of his five surviving granddaughters: Theresa Severa, 95, of De Pere; Audry Piper, 82, of Oconto Falls; Cherry Kroeger, 86, of Saukville; and Manny, 88, by his side. Just a mere 150 years after the end of the Civil War.

"I really feel really proud,” said Kramer Kobes, who grew up in Lena and knew of her grandfather’s exploits, but never met him. “Really, that I had a grandfather that was in the Civil War and was fighting along with so many other people to save us, to save our country – I'm happy about that."

So how did the marker mix-up happen? In his old age, Joseph Kramer moved to Lena in 1909 to live with his son and daughter-in-law – Kramer Kobes’ parents. Kramer’s wife's body was exhumed from the Peshtigo cemetery and moved St. Charles cemetery. A second homemade marker was installed after his death in 1913 at the age of 85 and the homemade marker in Peshtigo was left behind, until Doucette found it.

According to records found by Doucette, Kramer was part of the North's attack on Atlanta, Ga., where he was shot in the leg during the Battle of Dallas.

He later returned to Peshtigo and survived the Great Peshtigo Fire.

"It didn't take too much for all us to realize that it needed to go where it belonged, and that was over this veteran's grave," said Doucette.

Despite Kramer Kobes and her surviving sisters having never met their grandfather, she says they have long known about his efforts more than 150 years ago.

"I'm very proud. I'm proud. I like being a Kramer."