FALLBROOK, Calif. — The grave of Medal of Honor recipient who died in 1904 is receiving new life with touching tribute. In this Zevely Zone, I went to Fallbrook for the special ceremony. "I was out for a bike ride," said Fallbrook resident Mark Goodwin. A few months ago, the Army veteran couldn't believe what he stumbled upon and read on an old headstone in a Fallbrook cemetery. "I mean, the Medal of Honor winner and the date, I mean, this is the Civil War," said Mark. He and some of his Army buddies did some research and discovered Sgt. William Pittenger was a Civil War hero, but they wondered why he was buried here.
"We go wait a minute, that's our fence," said Jerry Sayre who watched our story. Jerry told us to meet the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War at the Fallbrook Pioneer Odd Fellows Cemetery on Medal of Honor Day. "All of us we are descendants of Union soldiers. My great grandfather was in the Union Army," said Jerry who was dressed in a Union Army uniform. Jerry grew up in Fallbrook and admits even he didn't know a thing about William Pittenger. "I honestly walked through here as a child and looked at all of the old headstones and didn't know any of the stories," said Jerry.
According to the headstone, William Pittenger was born on January 31, 1840 and died on April 24, 1904. The Medal of Honor is the highest and most prestigious military decoration. Sgt. Pittenger received it after going behind enemy lines to burn bridges and steal a train. It's a mission now called the Great Locomotive Chase. "Several of the guys were executed some escaped and Pittenger was involved in a prisoner exchange in 1863," said Tom Helmantoler. Tom is also a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Tom said Pittenger should be honored not only as a Civil War hero, but one of Fallbrook's Founding fathers. "He moved to Fallbrook in 1890 and basically started Fallbrook, he set up the Methodist Church he started Fallbrook High School," said Tom.
Sgt. Pittenger's home is now a part of the Fallbrook Historical Society, but his grave needed some love. "We thought he deserved better than what he had," said Jerry.
Not only did the volunteers erect a fence and foundation around the gravesite they are unveiling a memorial plaque to honor Sgt. Pittenger. A small crowd then sang 'God Bless America'. "Even after my children and grandchildren are gone this will still be here and that's what it's about," said Jerry. "We hope other people come to enjoy it."
Sgt. William Pittenger may have died in 1904, but Mark Goodwin is grateful his memory lives on in Fallbrook. "What a great turn out, a great turn out for today. It's a lot of pride that he is not forgotten," said Mark.
Sgt. William Pittenger isn't resting in peace alone; his wife Winnie is buried at his side. According to a Wikipedia, the couple moved to Fallbrook with their six children in 1890 where Pittenger became an author and pastor. He died at the age of 64.