In The News

Woman’s love of history leads to burial ground’s restoration

This article originally appeared in The Daily Herald.

Suzanne Knapp, 69, of Fox River Grove, has always had a fascination with history.

After all, Knapp is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Arlington Heights chapter, a group that offers membership to those who can trace their families back to people who fought in the Revolutionary War.

Ten years ago, Knapp decided she’d take on the difficult project of restoring the Oak Glen/Chunn Burial Ground, located in the oldest section of Fox River Grove.

The burial ground, home to 171 graves, including one of a Civil War veteran, was in dire straits, filled with broken bottles and gravestones, box springs, beds and overgrown plants.

Together, Knapp and her friend Linda Stengele cleaned the burial ground and had Algonquin Township plow it.

Workers also put the tombstones in a walled-up area to protect them from vandals.

They arranged for the government to rededicate and provide a stone bearing the name of John Kelly, the Union Army soldier buried there.

The women tried researching the burial ground’s history, but have come up empty thus far – some of the earliest settlers in McHenry County and Fox River Grove made the cemetery their final resting place.

It is now a historic site in the county.

“We’re just doing it for the people who are below the ground, if not the people who are above the ground,” Knapp said. “I don’t think anybody should be buried and forgotten.”

For her efforts, Knapp received the Illinois Humanities Council’s Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award last Thursday – Stengle won it in 2002.

The award also made note of all the work Knapp did promoting and categorizing the history of the Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove, the country’s oldest, continuously run ski club.

“She actually was the main person that kept that thing going through the lean years,” said Fox River Grove Village President Robert Nunamaker, who nominated Knapp for the award. “She held that place together.”

For her part, Knapp said she experienced heart palpitations when she realized she’d won.

“It threw me for a complete loop,” Knapp said of the honor. “The mayor just called me one night and said ‘Here you go, you’re it.'”