Ethan Cecava's grandfather was a frequent visitor to local cemeteries.

Don Hoppes of Roca, Neb., who died in October, liked the history there.

Ethan learned from his grandfather that graves were often hard to find because there was no master list. Then, Ethan read news reports about the Lincoln Regional Center Cemetery, where the markers have a number but typically no name or date.

Ethan, 15, decided to make the cemetery his Eagle Scout project.

With funding from the Lincoln Regional Center, Ethan put up markers to indicate the rows of graves and also uncovered some of the markers that sunk into the earth over time. He built a permanent kiosk containing the names of more than 450 people buried at the cemetery.

He placed the kiosk Saturday, marking the last day of his project.

The project has cost about $350 so far, his mom, Mary Cecava, said.

“Ethan thought it was a great way to put meaning behind community awareness,” she said. “These people have been forgotten and left with a number. They should be respected.”

Those buried in the 1880s and at the start of the 20th century died at what was then called the Nebraska Hospital for the Insane.

By the 1950s, when burials ended, it had been renamed the Lincoln State Hospital.

Only a handful of the graves have headstones and names.

It wasn't until a 2009 Nebraska Supreme Court decision that state officials made public the names of people buried in the cemeteries.

Mary Cecava said that, during that period, there was a stigma associated with receiving treatment at the Regional Center. More recently, though, there's been a push to acknowledge those buried in the cemetery.

Ethan was happy to do just that, she said.

“He's just really excited to finish and share his project.”

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