Steve Naas wants to make sure that those who are buried at Old Greencastle Cemetery in Dayton’s Edgemont neighborhood get the respect and dignity they deserve.
Naas learned about the shabby conditions of the cemetery via his work with the Greater Edgemont Community Coalition.
Starting last spring, he began dedicating scores of hours during Saturdays, an evening here and there and an occasional vacation day to improve the condition of the cemetery that he said has been nearly abandoned and lacking care for many years.
“When it comes to cemetery grounds, they need to be maintained at a level that everybody would want if this was their loved one’s final resting place,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if the cemetery is 150 years old or not, we need to do it as a community. We need to step up.”
Naas is the president of County Corp., a private non-profit development corporation for Montgomery County that administers affordable housing and economic development programs. He was nominated as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem by Kim Bramlage, who said Naas is involved in many projects that his job requires.
“The reason I feel he needs recognized is not because of his job and daily work, but for his tremendous passion for this community beyond the normal 9-to-5,” Bramlage said.
Naas said he appreciates the nomination, but immediately sought to credit part of the effort to others.
“It’s just me cajoling people that I know and then (them) agreeing to participate in part because of our friendship,” he said.
The cemetery is, according to many sources, the oldest cemetery still in its original location in the city of Dayton, Naas said. It’s the final resting place of at least one Revolutionary War veteran and “a significant amount” of Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War, plus other veterans all the way up until and including the Korean War.
When Naas first visited the site in early spring 2022, most of the headstones were completely obscured by the tall grass and weeds that had run rampant throughout the site.
“I drove past this a lot over the years, and I told myself, ‘Somebody needs to do something about that’ and it got to the point where I was the one who said, ‘‘If I’m thinking it, that somebody needs to include me.’”
Even though Naas lives in Clay Twp., a 30-minute drive from Edgemont, he said he makes the trip there on most Saturdays between April and November, hauling his personal lawn equipment and using lawn care tools from the Montgomery County Community Pride Cleanup Supply Trailer to work in the cemetery from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Regardless of any other volunteers showing up, Naas mows, trims, weed-whacks, cleans out brush and takes care of the toppled-over headstones and monuments.
He said another group — SUV Sherman Camp #93 — also helps with the cemetery.
“They’re doing good work, but it was really a challenge for them to stay on top of it,” he said.
Bramlage praised Naas for adopting the cemetery as his own.
“Thanks to Steve and his leadership, the property is now mowed and trimmed on a regular basis by volunteers, but Steve himself is the one putting in the majority of the hours and work nine months of the year,” she said.