West Case Argued Before Supremes

Family Wants His Remains Left Alone

Chester Howard West

United States military hero Chester Howard West survived The Great War. However, when he returned home, to West Virginia, he was murdered, buried in a Mason County grave that became overgrown with vegetation and, for a time, ignored. More than 80 years later, West is at the center of a West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case.

Will West rest in peace? Or will his grave be moved to Kanawha County in a graveyard named for Putnam County hero Donel Kinnard. Woody Williams wants West moved. The family of West’s widow, Maggie Vansickle, wants West’s remains to be left alone and wants more access to the grave site to make upgrades and have it properly maintained.

PutnamCountyNews.com first told you about the case, in 2016.

Mason County Circuit Judge David Nibert first ruled that West’s remains be moved. After the Vansickles appealed, Nibert stayed his ruling.

“He’s the grave-robbing judge,” says Roger Vansickle, “It is outrageous that they won’t let this hero rest in peace!”

In 2015, a Boy Scout found the cemetery, cleaned up the grave as an Eagle Scout project, and the controversy began.  

Williams, who is West Virginia’s only surviving Medal of Honor recipient, then learned of West’s grave and began his efforts to relocate move West’s remains to the Kinnard Veterans Cemetery including a full military service and burial. Roger Vansickle doesn’t object to a military service and upgrading West’s longtime burial site, but says they should take place at the current location.

The Vansickle’s attorney, WVU Law Professor Robert Bastress, joins the family and admits that Williams’ motives are admirable. However, he argued before the high court, Wednesday, February 15th, 2017, that Williams’ goals can be “satisfied by the erection of a marker, monument, or other recognition of Mr. West’s sacrifice and service to this country.”

The justices have yet to rule on the case.