Bradley Graham had laid the groundwork for his Eagle Scout project.
He spent about eight months researching and talking to members of the Forsyth County Historical Society and county officials to see about restoring the Jacob Scudder family cemetery, located in the Preserve of Etowah subdivision in northwestern Forsyth.
He had visited the site several times, plotting out ways to restore the historic cemetery which had been destroyed by time and vandals.
But the young man would never reach the final step to Eagle Scout, or even present his project background work to the Etowah Boy Scout Council for their approval.
Graham was killed in a hunting accident in south Georgia while on Thanksgiving break in late November.
His father, David Graham, said his son had loved scouting since his first Cub Scout meeting at age 6.
Graham had actively participated in Scouts ever since and eagerly joined a local troop after the family moved to Cumming from Iowa in 2008.
His death came as a major blow to Troop 207, said Scoutmaster Craig Cromwell.
“He was the epitome of Boy Scouting,” Cromwell said. “When you think of all the good things that scouting represents — being friendly, courteous, kind, hard-working — Bradley was all that. He was just a great kid and a great friend to his troop mates.”
Brant Utter, 16, and Blake Lafayette, 15, agreed.
“Bradley was a great scout,” Utter said. “He was always happy, always funny.”
Added Lafayette: “He was an amazing example of what a scout should be. He was always there to help us out in any way.”
While Graham wasn’t able to finish his own Eagle Scout project, Cromwell and the other boys of Troop 207 made completing it a priority.
And on a recent Saturday, they along with several other boys from other area troops spent the day working to finish what Graham started.
The boys gathered at the cemetery, spending the entire day cutting and chipping trees, pulling up weeds, replacing fence, restoring damaged grave markers and adding ones made by hand to 34 unmarked graves.
Zach Miller, 15, of Troop 207 had the idea to put up white crosses at the unmarked sites.
He echoed Cromwell’s sentiments about his fallen friend.
“Bradley was a great guy. He was going to go far,” he said. “He was the epitome of what being a scout is all about.”
While the Boy Scouts of America doesn’t award the Eagle ranking posthumously, outstanding scouts who pass away can earn what is known as the Spirit of the Eagle award.
The process to achieve that award can take up to a couple of months. However, Cromwell said thanks to Daniel Victorio, a district executive, Graham was able to receive it a couple weeks after his passing.
“That was totally thanks to Daniel. He worked to get it pushed through,” Cromwell said. “We had our troop’s first Eagle Scout Court of Honor in December and we were able to recognize Bradley then. It meant a lot.”
The court of honor is a special ceremony in which Scouts earning the eagle rank formally receive the designation.
Bradley’s mother, Debbie Graham, said her son would have been honored to receive the award and to see all the boys making his project idea a reality.
“Today has just been beyond our expectations,” she said while setting up lunch for the Scouts. “I’m so proud of our troop and all the families and businesses who donated to make this a reality.”
She said besides the Boy Scouts, several local businesses donated money or in-kind services for the project. Among them were Lang Signs, Fortified Fence, Lanier Crossing Chick-fil-A, Zaxby’s on Hwy. 20, Stonework Unlimited and Advanced Rental in Canton.
When asked what her son would think of all the boys working to restore the cemetery, she became choked up with emotion.
“He’d be so proud,” she said. “He was so excited to do this because he loved history. Even in school that was one of his favorite subjects.
“He had put all this together but it’s grown so much bigger than he ever anticipated. The boys are all excellent and he’d be so proud of them.”