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WILLAMETTE NATIONAL CEMETERY

Prestigious cemetery owes a lot to this Navy veteran

For The Oregonian/OregonLive When Dr. Walter Warren Schafer went to Willamette National Cemetery in 1968 to see his 21-year-old son buried, he was disgusted by what he saw.

Forty acres of mud; many of the 2,000 graves lacking permanent markers; standing water where soil and grass should have blanketed the dead. Cemetery personnel had to weigh down caskets to get them to sink into waterlogged concrete cutouts.

“I didn’t like that,” Schafer said. “I didn’t want my son to be one of them. I thought there was a better way.”

Five decades later, Schafer is upheld as a key force behind the manicured beauty and stature of Willamette National Cemetery, often considered second among national cemeteries only to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. “The changes have been dramatic since then,” he says. Expansion, accessibility and beautification work continue on the cemetery’s current 307 acres.

Schafer, a Navy veteran, plans to be buried there next to his son, Seaman Apprentice

Dr. Walter Warren Schafer visits Willamette National Cemetery. Mark Graves, staff

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