Veteran Services developing digital grave map for Chicopee

Nov. 3, 2022 | Matt Conway

CHICOPEE – The Chicopee Veterans Services Office is developing a digital grave map in an effort to recognize the nearly 8,000 veterans laid to rest in the city.

Veteran Service Director Stephanie Shaw said the idea first sprouted while working during her first Memorial Day season.

“After Memorial Day, we were getting a lot of calls from relatives and loved ones that people were not getting flags placed at their graves,” said Shaw in an interview with Reminder Publishing.

Previously, the Veteran Service Office sent out volunteers to place flags on graves by looking for headstones that signify military service. Shaw believed that the system was inadequate at encompassing all veterans, with many not representing service history via a headstone.

“There’s a lot of people out there that don’t have anything on a headstone or a grave marker … why is that ok with everyone, we have to have a better system,” said Shaw.

Shaw began working alongside Graves Registration Officer Michael Brunetti and the city’s geographic information system (GIS) coordinator to create a new mapping system for veteran gravesites in Chicopee.

“We have these old, hand-drawn plot maps from some of these cemeteries, and we have this database … once we started working on that project and working it out, we started talking about the digital version becoming interactive and linking it on the website so people could research the veterans,” said Shaw.
Shaw expressed that development so far has been “exciting.”

“It’s leading us to headstones we didn’t know were veterans, family plots where we were only putting one flag when we really needed to put four and seeing the breadth of how many veterans we have laid to rest in this city,” said Shaw.

The digital grave map will be an ongoing project for Shaw. Her team is now in the process of mapping the cemeteries. After that is completed, Shaw will reference information from the state’s database on military service. The process of linking information to a digital grave map can only be done “with one at a time.”

Shaw envisions the project to take as long as five years to complete due to the extensive information and digital programming that needs to occur. She said a digital version of the map without the information could be prepared by the end of 2023.

“We’re making sure we’re being so much thorough and efficient with our flagging so that everyone who is laid [to rest] eternally will get that recognition every year,” said Shaw.

Since announcing the project, Shaw said she’s received a plethora of calls from family members helping to provide additional information. She expressed pride in the project’s ability to reconnect families to their deceased veteran loved ones.

“I think its really kind of amazing to see the families come out and get excited … people are saying, ‘Hey, do you have this information?’ and there’s been some where we didn’t have that information,” said Shaw.

Readers can learn more about the Veteran Services Office at

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