Contemplate this: Local Boy Scout spends 300 hours helping Jewish cemetery


Dylan Lohss, a senior at Parkway Central High School, works with two fellow Boy Scouts to measure where they should place wooden markers as a guide for a contemplation area they were building Sunday, Oct. 3 at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in Chesterfield. (photo: Eric Berger)

Eric Berger, Associate Editor

On Sunday morning at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in Chesterfield, Sandy Lohss advised her son Dylan Lohss that he and the other Boy Scouts needed to start digging.

Lohss and two fellow scouts from Parkway School District had already spent more than 45 minutes using a diagram and tape measures to figure out where exactly to place wooden sticks in the ground as markers for the dig.

“This is the longest part of the project,” Lohss reassured his mom.

The amount of time the volunteer project took didn’t appear to bother Lohss, a senior at Parkway Central High, who estimated he had already spent 300 hours on it.


“I come home from school at 2:40, and [Chesed Shel Emeth] closes at 4, so if I don’t get my emails out within an hour-30, they close and I have to wait until the next day,” explained Lohss, who is trying to become an Eagle Scout.

To do so, Lohss needs to lead a community service project. His love of the outdoors, previous volunteer experience at the cemetery and a suggestion from the cemetery director culminated in an idea: a contemplation area where people could sit during visits.

“People can go and visit, but there isn’t a lot of seating for resting or contemplating, and I think that’s a very nice enhancement for the cemetery,” said Anita Feigenbaum, director of Chesed Shel Emeth.

Lohss became involved with Boy Scouts in elementary school and said he has gained tremendously from the program.

“I have learned to camp. I have learned to be resourceful. I have made so many good friends. I know how to make friends. I know how to introduce myself,” said Lohss, who after graduation will participate in the state’s A+ Scholarship Program, which provides high-achieving students with two free years of community college. He hopes to become a veterinarian.

For four years, Lohss’ troop has visited Chesed Shel Emeth to place American flags at veterans’ gravesites on Memorial Day.

Lohss and his family, who are not Jewish, also were aware of Chesed Shel Emeth because of their Jewish neighbors, who welcomed them when they moved from Seattle 14 years ago.

“We love the [Jewish] community so much, and so does (Dylan),”  said Sandy Lohss. “Every year we have been coming here to do the flags, and it’s always been a peaceful place, so it made” the community service project more meaningful.

The 300 hours included visits to Home Depot and meetings with a mentor, horticulturist and members of the troop board. 

Lohss also designed the contemplation area, which will feature a rock bed, bushes, flowers and an urn filled with rocks. As Lohss learned from Feigenbaum, Jews place stones at their loved ones’ graves.

It will also feature a trash can and two benches. While Lohss and two scouts figured out where to place the markers, three other scouts were staining pieces of wood for the benches.

Dylan Lohss and his fellow Boy Scouts from the Parkway School District partially completed a contemplation area at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in Chesterfield on Oct. 3, 2021.

The scouts planned to spend six hours at the cemetery on Sunday and six more hours on Oct. 10.

Fortunately, by the end of the day Sunday, they had in fact begun digging a trench for the rock bed. They also finished installing the plants and staining wood for the benches.

“It’s a very meaningful project,” Sandy Lohss said. “We’re very proud of him.”.