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Grave markers placed for long-deceased Minnesota veterans

PINE RIVER, Minn. -- At long last, three nearly forgotten veterans have received grave markers in Pine Ridge Cemetery in Pine River. In September 2017, Pine Ridge Cemetery Board President Jacque Ide began a search for information on three veteran...

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PINE RIVER, Minn. - At long last, three nearly forgotten veterans have received grave markers in Pine Ridge Cemetery in Pine River.

In September 2017, Pine Ridge Cemetery Board President Jacque Ide began a search for information on three veterans buried in the cemetery with little or no grave markers.

Arnold Oller was buried in 1963 and had only a metal stake. Kenneth DeGroot was buried in 2000 with a metal stake that did not include his death date. Ernest Hopper was buried in 1948 with nothing to identify him but a last name on a map.

Thanks to Ide and sleuths including Cynthia McCarthy, Rilla Anderson and others, sufficient information was found for Cass County Assistant Veterans Service Officer Stephen Sether to file a request for grave markers.

Once the requests were approved, Pine River American Legion Post 613 funded purchase of concrete slabs for the grave markers. Sether along with volunteers Terry Steele, with the American Legion and 40 and 8, and Tim Switajewski of the American Legion installed the markers Saturday, May 19, ahead of a Memorial Day service slated Monday, May 28.

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Ernest L. Hopper

Ernest Layfette Hopper died Jan. 2, 1948, in Pequot Lakes at the age of 56.

Hopper was born May 19, 1891, to Ulyses W. Hopper and Chloe Ann (Benjamin) Hopper in Berlin, Wisconsin.

Hopper was a veteran of the United States Army from Sept. 8, 1917, to June 7, 1919. He was a private in Company C of the 109th infantry in the supply train. He was discharged honorably from Camp Dodge, Iowa. Following discharge, Hopper was later exempt from the draft due to an unspecified disability.

Hopper's grave marker was laid on May 19, 2018.

Arnold N. Oller

Arnold Norman Oller died Nov, 2, 1963, in Cass County at the age of 84.

Hopper was born Aug. 26, 1879, to John Oller and Rhoda Oller in Belinda, Iowa.

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Hopper enlisted in the United States Army twice, the first time in 1903 and the second time in 1932 and served as a private operating field artillery. Oller married Florence Danbarry in 1905. Outside of the military, Oller worked as a laborer and at Minnesota Transfer Railway Company. Due to his time working with artillery, Oller had lost partial sight in one eye and was mostly deaf in one ear. Oller later divorced with no known heirs and resided first in a "poor farm," then the National Home for Disabled Veterans in Milwaukee.

Oller was survived by sister Mary Wynonna (Oller, Trainor, Stordahl) who later died March 23, 1993.

Oller's temporary grave marker was replaced with a stone marker on May 19, 2018.

Kenneth DeGroot

Kenneth Degroot died Feb. 1, 2000, in Florala, Alabama, at the age of 76 and was interred in Pine Ridge Cemetery of Pine River to be near to his daughter, Katherine (DeGroot) Frasier.

DeGroot was born Aug. 17, 1924, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to unknown parents. He served two tours of duty as a Marine corporal during World War II where he continued education in engineering. Following his time with the Marines, he worked as a civil engineer in Jacksonville, Florida, where he lived most of his life. DeGroot oversaw construction of many bridges near Jacksonville.

He married Josie Bock in Jacksonville, and together they raised four daughters: Penelope, Katherine, Debra and Pamela. They divorced in 1978.

DeGroot was preceded in death by his ex-wife, Josie, and followed in death by his daughter, Penelope (DeGroot) Crookshank, 49, of Bartlett.

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DeGroot's temporary marker was replaced with a stone marker on May 19, 2018.

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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