John Wilson, a 19-year-old Eagle Scout who mapped out the location of all veterans buried at Lakeview Cemetery, will lead New Canaan's Memorial Day parade on Monday, May 26.
Peter Langenus, chairman of the parade committee and commander of New Canaan Post 653 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he believes Wilson is the youngest parade grand marshal New Canaan has ever had.
The parade committee chose the 2013 St. Luke's School graduate to thank him for identifying and categorizing the 900 veterans buried in the cemetery as part of his 2012 Eagle Scout project, according to Pam Flynn, the executive assistant to the first selectman.
Wilson started his yearlong project by creating an updated master map of the cemetery, which didn't exist before. He then created a map of each section in the cemetery and catalogued the location of each veteran's gravesite.
Wilson created two spreadsheets, one cataloguing the veterans alphabetically and one listing the names by section of the cemetery.
He then wrote a biographical report on each veteran.
The Scout also created a logistical plan for the distribution of the 900 flags placed each Memorial Day and another plan for the distribution of Christmas wreaths each December.
Langenus said Wilson's "very intense and laborious" project shows how everyone can make a contribution.
"The idea is to show the young people of New Canaan there is something they can personally do to remember and honor our veterans," Langenus said. "And here's an example of a young person who did just that."
Before he did the project, Langenus said, people who live in other towns and have a relative buried at Lakeview Cemetery had a hard time describing the location of the grave when they wanted a flag to be put at the tombstone.
"If they did not know the section, there was no way to know where the person was buried," he said.
Langenus said people from as far away as Switzerland have called him asking to put a flag at their relative's tombstone. He said he tried "to find someone that was willing to invest the time to get it done" for years.
Wilson, who just finished his freshman year at the University of Notre Dame, said being named the parade's grand marshal is an "incredible" opportunity.
"I marched in the parade every year, but I definitely never imagined being the marshal," he said.
As part of the Eagle Scout project requirement, Wilson had the help of his friends and family, who went from section to section of the cemetery with him to identify veterans by looking at their gravestones.
This year's parade is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. in front of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 111 Oenoke Ridge, and will continue down Main Street culminating in a ceremony at Lakeview Cemetery.
The theme of the parade is "to remember with gratitude and honor the proud men and women who gave their lives while serving in the U.S. armed forces to protect and preserve a life of freedom for all Americans."
In case of heavy rain, a cancelation notice will be posted on the town's website, newcanaan.info, as early as Sunday evening, according to the first selectman's office. In place of the parade, the Memorial Day ceremony would take place in Morrill Hall at St. Mark's Church.
The line of march is posted on the town's website.