Tri States Public Radio Staff
Dr Gil Belles
Thu May 31, 2012
Emphasis - June 1
Rich Egger's guest is Dr Gil Belles, who is being honored with the National Historic Preservation Medal from the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
DAR's Dr Elizabeth Kaspar, Regent of the General Macomb Chapter, said Belles is only the second Illinois resident ever to receive the medal. It will be presented to him during a reception on Sunday, June 3, 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm in the Community Room at Macomb City Hall.
The DAR chapter said Belles is being honored for his leadership in restoring nearly 100 cemeteries in McDonough County.
Belles said after he was elected president of the McDonough County Historical Society in 2007 he learned the group had started and then put on hold a project to identify the county's rural cemeteries and place signs at them.
“They asked me if it was time to restart that project and in a great wave of naivete I said 'Oh sure! That will be easy and fun to do' before I realized we had over 100 cemeteries in the county, most of which would be difficult to find,” Belles said.
Belles said 110 cemeteries had been identified during research in the 1970s but he believes a few will be extremely difficult -- if not impossible -- to locate. He said they've been lost to time, weather, and neglect.
Belles said his next goal is to restore the Old Macomb Cemetery at West Adams Street and Wigwam Hollow Road. He said the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Historic Preservation Commission will hold a workshop in Macomb on Saturday, June 2.
“We're going to learn all about the correct procedure in identifying, finding, lifting, resetting, (and) cleaning of headstones,” said Belles, adding all slots for the workshop have been filled.
Belles said money is being raised to put a new fence along the north and east sides of the cemetery. He said there are also plans to add paths, landscaping, and perhaps a bench or two. Parking and entry to the cemetery will be along its south side.
Belles said cemeteries are important because they are part of our heritage. He said our forebears deserve dignity and respect.
In addition, a lot can be learned at cemeteries. He said you can discover information about family trees, ethnic migration patterns and other aspects of local history, plus some of the sculptors and engravers of headstones were talented artists.