Each Memorial Day, cemeteries across the country fill with streams of red, white and blue – the American flag is a symbol of freedom and honor wherever it flies. Veterans earn the placement of the flag upon their graves with their commitment to freedom – no matter when, no matter where. 

For one soldier in Highland Cemetery, north of Holdingford on County Road 9, the flag has been placed every Memorial Day for as long as anyone can recall. Members of the Holdingford American Legion and VFW have long carried on the tradition of honoring the fallen with the placement of flags, cascading the flowing majesty across 14 area cemeteries. 

Standing amongst the trees, headstones and silk flowers at the peaceful Highland Cemetery on a recent sunny morning, veteran Ernie Schmidt explained that there is one soldier who has long been a mystery to those who place the flags. 

Schmidt explained, “For 30 or 40 years, Bob Lane had been placing the flags on the veterans’ graves. A few years ago, I started helping out and when I came to this spot (he pointed to the ground nearby), I asked Bob why there was no headstone.” 

Like those before him, Lane had been following the hearsay instructions to place a flag at a certain spot in the cemetery where it was said a veteran was laid to rest. He did as those before him had done and was not certain, but had come to know the veteran as Constant Livery. 

Other details of the veteran’s life have been somewhat of a mystery. The fact that he never received a headstone bearing his name or anything about his service clouded the situation further. 

But that is about to change. 

Schmidt, a member of the American Legion, VFW and Holdingford Historical Society, felt compelled to find out more about the man who was laid to rest nearly 115 years ago and bring the honor of a headstone to his gravesite. 

It took some doing, but eventually, Schmidt’s curiosity was met with data that explained at least a brief synopsis of the veteran’s life.

In his search, Schmidt began with the local representative of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Erv Karasch, who shared that if it could be proven that Constant Livery was a veteran and indeed was buried at that point in Highland Cemetery, a headstone would be provided by the VA. 

Karasch searched three databases with the VA and could not find the records of Constant Livery. However, he noted that many records had been destroyed in a fire in the 1960s or 1970s in St. Louis, Mo., where many military records had been stored. 

Documentation of the cemetery, held by the Holdingford Historical Society, includes the name of Constant Livery and places him at the point where year after year, a flag has been posted to signify service. 

Schmidt then turned to Bill Carlin (with Miller-Carlin Funeral Homes) who keeps many records. While Carlin did not have record of Constant Livery, he did online research and found data on findagrave.com.

Following is an excerpt from that data:   

Constant Livery was born near Paris, France, on Aug. 15, 1840. He died in Holdingford on Aug. 13, 1903, just shy of reaching his 63rd birthday. He came to America with his parents at the age of nine. He was a veteran of the Civil War, serving from 1861-1865 in Co. A. 30th regiment Ohio volunteer infantry. He was a member of Phil. Shriden Post, No. 157, Grand Army of the Republic at Royalton. He was married to Levina George, on Aug. 9, 1866. There were born to them eight children, four boys and four girls. A large cartage followed to the grave, 34 teams besides many persons on foot. He was buried at Holding, Aug. 15, 1903. The funeral sermon was by Rev. A. M. Keniston, of Burtrum.  

Schmidt took the cemetery and online information to Karasch who then located another military database in Ohio (based on Livery’s alleged service noted online) and there, he found the proof that Constant Livery had indeed served his country during the Civil War. 

“Following the Civil War, service members were given land grants in Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc., and that would be a good reason for Constant to come here, to the Holdingford area,” Schmidt speculated. “While we don’t know where he actually lived or where his wife and children were buried, it sure would be interesting to find out.” 

The Royalton Historical Society also confirmed the existence of the Phil. Shriden Post, No. 157, Grand Army of the Republic at Royalton and noted that Constant Livery’s name is included in the record of membership. 

The next step will take just a little time. Karasch has submitted documentation and a request to the VA for a headstone bearing Constant Livery’s name and his service details. He is confident such a request will find approval.  

“As soon as we are approved, we will get a cement base put in and the VA will deliver the stone,” Schmidt said. 

Through the effort of research, Schmidt feels content that honor will soon come for Constant Livery – honor that goes beyond the flying flag. 

“Every veteran deserves a permanent marker bearing his name and what he did for his country,” Schmidt said. “People should know that he is a veteran, not just assume it. His stone will prove it.”